SNEAK PEEK: One Dark Halloween Night by John Kohlbrenner

One Dark Halloween Night by John Kohlbrenner

 

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SYNOPSIS

 

12-year-old Jason Myer’s three best friends think he’s nuts. Known for getting his buddies to do daring and reckless things, such as standing up to the class bully, Jason’s claim that there are monsters in Autumnville is too crazy for even them to believe. So what if there’s an Internet video of a witch flying over their town? With Halloween only three days away, it has to be a prank.

 

But their best friend doesn’t give up easily. Bribing them with promises of crashing his older brother Malcolm’s secret Halloween party, Jason wants his friends’ help in finding proof. He needs to show them that their town is in danger from monsters right out of his nightmares.

 

Jason’s friends soon discover that he may be right. The neighbor’s jack-o’-lantern is spying on them, ghosts appear outside of school, and living scarecrows chase them through the night. If the four friends are to live long enough to make it to Malcolm’s Halloween party, they will need to put on their costumes and trick or treat for their lives…

 

 

EXCERPT

 

One Dark Halloween Night Chapter 1

1) Of Screams and Nightmares

-1-

The deep blue sky had darkened quickly as Farmer Jake Flayger did his slow trek across his fields.

“Dang October evenings come quick and cold,” he cursed quietly to himself.

His body was aching all over from all the hard work, and being cold only made it worse. Farmer Flayger glanced to the right, taking in the impressive view of his property, containing row upon row of ripe cornstalks stretching across the horizon.

Farmer Flayger felt fortunate that autumn was unusually warm, and he was able to get one more crop in. As he continued his walk, he noticed the six scarecrows that stood scattered across the field. He didn’t remember putting out so many, but still he was impressed with his handiwork in making them.

Scarecrows with their worn patched coats, gloved hands full of hay, and their cloth sack heads with sewn button eyes. All this along with those old hats his father had kept, made a nice final touch to his cornfield works of art. They gave his fields a good country feeling. But why were there so many of them out there now? He wondered.

“Must be at least a half-a-dozen of ‘em, at least. Well, an artist at work would lose track after making so many masterpieces.”

The field worn farmer then turned and looked ahead toward his old barn. The two-story, rotting affair was old, very old, and often he wondered why he still used it to store his equipment.

“I should have torn it down a long time ago and built a new one. Must have been too busy making scarecrows,” he laughed to himself. Farmer Flayger knew the place was rotten and unsafe, but it also gave him a nostalgic feeling to see the barn. Demolishing the place would be like euthanizing old Bette, his retired milk cow. All farms need to have an old rustic barn.

No, he would keep the place, though he had to be careful about the building. It was rickety and old.

While Farmer Flayger was lost in backwoods thoughts of his beloved barn, an unusual thing was happening out in the cornfield. As he passed the scarecrows, their heads slowly turned to follow him. Button-eyed heads somehow saw Farmer Flayger as he walked past them. As Farmer Flayger progressed closer and closer to the barn, an excited energy rippled through them with such intensity that tiny blue sparks danced across their exposed hay as if they were live wires deadly to the touch.

Now Farmer Flayger, a thick-headed corn jockey, was beginning to have a clue that something unnatural was in motion. The hairs on his arms were standing up, and a bout of nervousness was settling in. Could there be a storm coming? There wasn’t a cloud out there. Maybe something was wrong with the barn? His mind raced with uneasy thoughts, something was not right. Then he saw the barn door. It was slightly ajar even though he had been religious about always keeping it closed and locked.

Reaching the barn, he cautiously slid through the gap. Inside it was dark, too dark for this time of day. He could barely see anything in front of him.

As he reached for a flashlight hanging from a support beam he noticed there were already lights. Tiny, blue-tinged ones spread out through the darkened barn. As he watched them, he could make out shapes formed by the lights, triangles, circles, and zigzags. He stared at the lights until he saw that they were actually faces, that of almost a hundred glowing jack-o’-lanterns. Farmer Flayger’s last living thought was that he didn’t even grow pumpkins on his farm.

His scream echoed outside across the empty cornfield. Not even the scarecrows were there to hear it. Only their support polls remained.

-2-

It was getting late when Jason Myers rode his bike up to his house. Feeling some anxiety for missing supper, the young boy bravely opened the garage, ready to face any punishment in store for him. Strangely, it was empty with no sign of his mom’s car. Instead a table sat in the middle with a large carved pumpkin resting on top. Its face decorated with triangle eyes and nose along with a square teethed mouth. The type of jack-o’-lantern you would see almost everywhere. Ignoring it, Jason moved to park his bike, when he heard a voice whisper to him.

“Jason.”

The boy looked around the garage unsure of who was speaking to him.

“Jason.” The voice spoke again.

This time Jason knew where it was coming from, the jack-o’-lantern. Slowly approaching it, he could see that something was inside it. Peeking through the pumpkin’s carved openings; Jason could see a boy’s face inside. It was his own.

“Trick-or-treat!” Jason said to himself from inside the pumpkin.

Waking up the twelve-year-old opened his eyes and sat up on his bed, it was still dark.

“What a weird dream,” Jason thought out loud. Then he smiled. “That’s because it’s almost Halloween.”

Jason happily went back to sleep.

-3-

From a distance, the town of Autumnville never seemed right, with its locations being both picturesque and haunting. It had that beauty of golden farm fields and orange leaf trees, quaint small family homes and bright red barns. Midsized neighborhoods orbited around a tiny downtown Main Street with small shops covering the bare necessities of life which only drew only a few visitors from out of town. However, Autumnville was also home to abandoned homes and decrepit barns that dotted the area. If you zoomed far enough back in Google Maps, the structures formed an illusion of a great grinning face of a jack-o’-lantern.

On the outskirts of town, an enormous cemetery sat like a great beast, long unused, and crumbling from old age. This added to the feeling of coldness that could be felt underneath that middle-American charm the town had. There was tension always present as if people were ready to jump out of their skins.

Halloween was big for the folks here, with their town parade, elaborate decorations, and even a permanent costume store. No one could quite tell you why the holiday had become such a big deal, but as the celebration approached, a sinister mania would infect the town. Reaching levels that ancient man must have felt when they first celebrated Halloween, the life or death fear of approaching winter and possible starvation brought on by the harsh weather.

Did this strangeness cause what was about to happen to the town, as if it were a ritual summoning the terror that was about to strike? Or, was this just an echo of what the future held for this small town, a foreshadowing imprint that had scarred the land, leaving it both cursed and creepy? Now this was the perfect atmosphere for Jason, a young boy who enjoyed all things monsters. At least until he found out that they were real.

-4-

These thoughts were running through Jason Myers subconscious. The town’s myths and legends were just another cool factor in a normally dull small town. To a twelve-year-old boy the prospects of a wild Halloween celebration, candy debauchery, and the faceless hooliganism a costume would allow just fed his fire. He loved Halloween. This created an obsession which was common with most kids in town for that holiday. Christmas was all about the toys, Easter was just for babies, Fourth of July, what Fourth of July? There are no fireworks due to fire hazards. Halloween was the perfect fit for the place and that was just fine with Jason.

With two days to go before Halloween, he sat on his bed and impatiently watched his friends goofing around in his room. Jason could feel the growing excitement of the approaching holiday, and his blood felt like rocket fuel. He could barely sit still as he thought of houses full of candy and a parade of costumed creepies. Now this was what he lived for.

Fred Pratt was Jason’s thick headed friend who was impatiently digging through an old plastic pumpkin bucket with his large hand in search of candy. He was a tall kid with dark hair that topped his oblong head. His face, while friendly, often had an empty look about it. There wasn’t much upstairs with this guy, but that was fine. It was nice to have a buddy that followed you around like a puppy. Now sitting across from Fred was Walt Creighton, a squat, hairy kid who had eyes always searching for mischief. His messy curly brown hair reflected the crazy random trouble he often caused with his pranks and insults. He was a loose cannon often going off when you least expected it. He was a fun kid to hang with, though he would often get his friends into trouble.

“Fred, you remember last Halloween when we all got pumpkins from that creepy O’Neley farm,” Walt said, his face barely concealing something devious.

“Yeah,” Fred replied uninterested.

“When my dad and I cut open the pumpkin that night, a spider the size of a rat came out of it.”

“Whoa, cool! Was the spider orange?” Fred said as he continued to root through the bucket.

Drake Blasko, a dark haired brain with eyeglasses and all, was listening as he sat at Jason’s desk playing with a toy skeleton. He was Jason’s best friend, always backing him up and was very clever. It was a good thing to have a buddy that was bright, especially when it came to homework, Jason thought.

“Sure, Fred, and I hear they like candy too,” Drake added.

Fred quickly pulled his hand out of the bucket and slowly inspected it for spiders. Walt was nearly on the floor with laughter. Drake smirking then said, “Jason my friend, why do you have a bucket full of candy when Halloween hasn’t even happened yet?”

Jason Myers was blond, blue eyed, and handsome. He was the kind of kid that everyone got along with except the bullies. The twelve-year-old boy, while well-natured, tended to be on the wild reckless side, always taking chances and thinking bold thoughts, often pushing his friends on crazy adventures. He would do such daring things as climbing with his friends the tallest trees in town, or jumping their bikes over Dan Born Creak and the Doomsday Ditch. At this moment, he wanted to tell his buddies about something he had recently learned. But for now he would just wait and relaxing on his bed. He hadn’t slept well the night before, strange dreams. They were talking about Halloween and when it came to the holiday, he couldn’t stop daydreaming about all the wild things they would do on Halloween night. No, he would bring it up soon.

“Hey, wake up space boy! Jason, what’s with the candy?” Drake sounded both annoyed and impatient. Jason and his wild day dreaming, a regular space case, he thought.

“Oh, ah, that’s my warm-up candy. Junk I got at the 10-cent store. I’m warming up my taste buds for all the good stuff we’ll get on Halloween.”

“Aren’t we a little old for trick or treating now? Candy is for little kids,” Drake tried to sound like a lecturing adult but failed.

“Dude, I’m never tired of candy, especially free candy,” Fred answered with a smile full of chocolate-covered teeth.

Looking away from his friend, Walt complained, “Man you are gross, Fred! Why don’t you eat some toothpaste, and pack for an overnight stay at the dentist? Buddy, you look like cavity central.”

“Ah, does anyone have any sugar-free gum? Think that might help?” the large boy asked, his Neanderthal-like face looking concerned.

Fred’s friends started laughing. Even Jason joined in the laughter. He usually was kind to his large friend and didn’t overreact to the dumb comments.

Walt then pointed his finger at Fred like a gun and fired. “Please, can I put him out of his misery? I’m doing him a favor, really!”

At that moment, Jason’s desktop computer beeped, sounding like a signal for Walt to stop his bad jokes. On hearing the alarm, Jason bolted upright, excited, he slid over on his bed to sit next to Drake, who was sitting in front of the computer. Now it was time to tell them.

“What’s the big deal? Your fantasy football team ready?” Drake asked.

“It’s a new post on onedarkhalloweennight.com. You know how I’m really into Halloween.”

“Yes, we can tell,” Drake said as he glanced around Jason’s room. Posters of skeletons and ghosts adorned the walls, and various monster toys sat on his shelves from Frankenstein to Freddy. Even the bedspread was black and orange, the color of Halloween. A black outline of a witch riding a broom across a full moon was the desktop image on the computer screen. Jason’s room was a shrine to the holiday.

“This is nothing. The whole town is into Halloween. The frickin’ McDonald’s here gives you a pumpkin for a Happy Meal toy,” Walt commented as he looked at Jason’s collection.

Fred started laughing, “You still buy Happy Meals?”

“Err no, I’m just saying,” Walt said looking uncomfortable.

Undeterred Jason continued, “Well I’ve been following this guy’s blog for a while now. He often uncovers real interesting facts about it.”

“What? Like where to get the best candy or how to trick your neighbor and get away with it?” asked Drake now intrigued.

“No, butthead! What really happens on the night, what is the real reason for Halloween.”

Walt and Fred got off the floor and joined Jason and Drake at the computer, sensing something interesting was germinating with their friends’ exchange.

“You are talking about the belief that spirits roam the Earth on the night of Hallows’ Eve, and we wear costumes and carve pumpkins to scare them away,” Drake continued, sounding like an authority on the subject. “And the use of treats to bribe ghosts, so they don’t cause any tricks on your household.” Drake tried to appear as if he was the voice of knowledge and reason, but instead he gave Fred a giggle fit.

“G-ghosts eating candy, ha, ha! Wouldn’t it fall right through their tummies?” Fred managed to laugh out.

Walt, looking annoyed, smacked his friend on the back. “Come on Fred. Show some respect. Drab Drake is trying to impress us with his vast knowledge of useless things.”

“Thanks, Walt, for the kind insult.” Drake reciprocated.

Jason then interceded himself between his friends and passionately explained, “Guys, guys, I know it sounds corny, but this is what people really believed back then, along with witches, vampires, and werewolves.”

“History blogs? Boring,” Walt replied.

“History, no way! With my social studies grades my mother would only wish. They are about what really might be happening on Halloween. Scary, freaky stuff. People in Europe disappearing on Halloween. It’s a real mystery,” Jason said as he gave all his friends an intense look. “News articles, pictures, and information about these Halloween mysteries. Professor Grimmgraves compiles it all and posts his theories on it.”

Instead of seeing the seriousness of what he was saying, Jason’s friends started laughing at him.

“Professor Grimmgraves?” Fred chuckled.

“Boy, that sounds like someone of real authority. Did he get his professorship at a mortuary?” Walt sputtered between laughs.

“Does he come from Transylvania? Is Count Dracula a buddy of his?” Drake managed to say as he finally got control of his laughter.

That last comment induced another round of laughter, and Jason found himself joining in. Once he stopped laughing, he said, “All those bloggers have stupid names, you know that. He is paying homage to all those old horror show hosts that use to be on TV. But this blogger really is up on his facts. The videos he posts links to, along with the articles, form a pretty scary picture.”

Now looking serious, Drake decided to give his friend a chance, “So what is this new post you’re all excited about?”

“I’ll show you,” Jason said as he reached over to his computer’s mouse and began clicking on it. “Yes! It’s a link to a video Professor Grimmgraves has been talking about for the past two days, it could be a clue as to what’s behind all those disappearances in Europe.”

Now all of Jason’s friends were staring intensely at the computer screen. The thrill of the unknown sent a shiver through their bodies.

On the computer screen, an image of a blue sky appeared, with small clouds seen in the distance, and on the right edge they could see part of an old brass colored clock tower. Then the image starts shaking as a black shape in the sky whizzes past the tower too quickly to see clearly and is gone. The video then pauses a few seconds and then starts over again at the beginning. This time it is so zoomed in, that the grainy image of the clock tower dominates a third of the screen. Digital noise can be seen splashing across the image, and the boys could tell that the video was being slowed down. First there is only the blue sky next to the tower, peaceful and boring. The image then jarringly begins to slowly move back and forth as what looked like a gray wooden handle entered the scene from the left. Boom! Now filling the screen is an old lady in a black dress, wearing a pointy hat, riding on a broom. The image almost seems to shudder as she dominates the screen, and before she passed behind the clock tower she fixed the camera with her hideous gaze.

“Whoa that is freaky,” Fred gasped.

“I don’t know, witches really? It’s out of focus, even I could do better,” Walt said as he shook his head.

Drake sighed and turned to look at Walt and Fred, “Come on, guys. Give Jason a break, he didn’t make the video. I don’t see any strings, and that is definitely not CGI. Let’s hear what Jason has to say, I mean this could be serious!” Drake grabbed Jason and started shaking him. “Deadly serious!”

Walt and Fred started laughing as Jason tried to keep a straight face. Jason didn’t know what to make of his friend, was Drake standing with him, or was he just making fun of him. “Drake thanks, I think?”

Drake picked up Jason’s toy skeleton again and held it before the blond haired boy’s confused face and said, “I’ll make no bones about it, but if there is even a skeleton of a chance this is real, I’m there for you. Who is Grimmygrapes? Why are you into his blog?”

“It’s Professor Grimmgraves, funny guy. I don’t know who he is, but he has been posting about Halloween for years. He started with pictures and travel logs of Halloween celebrations from all over the place.” Jason face then turned grave and he said, “Last year while visiting England his posts changed, becoming more serious. At first he would post articles about people missing in small villages throughout Europe. It starts with one person disappearing and eventually a whole town vanished last year in England, the place he had visited during last Halloween.”

“Great, so you have this blog of people vanishing. How do you know it’s true? I mean it could be alien abductions or something. Why do you even care Jason?” Walt questioned, “I know you like Halloween, but you’ve never believed in conspiracy theories.”

“Well, not until recently. I’m positive something freaky is happening. There’re these pictures I got off the blog, and this video really concerns me.”

“Why?” Drake asked.

“It was shot here. Didn’t you notice? The tower is identical to our town hall’s!”

Fred did a double take, his large eyes bulging out. Drake looked at his best friend, worried. Walt just laughed.

“This is serious, Professor Grimmgraves visited the last town to disappear causing him to change the whole direction of his blog, and now he posts this video from our town. They must be related,” Jason pleaded to his friends.

Drake took off his glasses and wiped them with his shirt. He often did this when he was seriously thinking about something. “Now let’s see. In the witch video, I recognize the tower. It’s from the town hall. How is this related to what your blog buddy had seen in the vanishing village that turned him into a conspiracy freak?”

“He won’t say much about his trip. He needs more evidence. He’s afraid people will think he is a complete nutcase if he speaks about what he saw. Instead he has been posting these pictures he’s found on the Internet. They must be related.” Jason ran his fingers through his hair, feeling a little tension. His friends were putting him on the spot.

Drake put his glasses back on and gave Jason a very concerned look. “He’s already nuts, but I will be open-minded. Why don’t you show us some of this evidence he has?”

Jason flashed a weak smile and began clicking open some folders on his computer. Drake at least was giving him a chance.

“I saved a couple of the best images he posted. Some of them are just freaky,” Jason said as he clicked open the first Jpeg file. An image of a scarecrow standing in the middle of a cobble street flashed onto Jason’s computer screen. Behind it was an old European storefront.

“That could be someone in a Halloween costume,” Walt said in a matter-of-fact voice.

Jason then clicked open another picture of a medieval grave site with a blurry white sheet flapping in the distance. Dark circles that appeared to be eyes could be seen at the top of the sheet.

“Well that must be someone hanging out some laundry to dry,” Walt snickered.

“Yeah, well who dries their bed sheets out in the middle of a cemetery? You doofus,” Jason retorted.

“Vampires maybe,” Walt said with a grin. Nobody could outgun him.

Fred fell to the floor rolling with laughter. In between gasps, he managed to sputter out, “Vampires sleeping in their graves with bed sheets. That’s a good one, Walt.”

Drake tried to keep his face serious as he complained to Walt, “But how would they keep their sheets so white?”

“Dudes, dudes, like I would know. Jason is the monster expert here,” Walt answered with a big grin above his chin.

“Listen, I’m not kidding. That isn’t a bed sheet. It’s a ghost. Not like one of those glowing see-through people that are in movies, but an honest representation of the human spirit. At least I think it is?” Jason saw he was losing the battle in convincing his friends. He clicked onto the next picture.

“Now, this picture is the creepiest. It’s the one that got me convinced that this is all real,” Jason said as he tried to regain some of his confidence.

An image of a young man appeared on the screen. It was a medium shot of him looking backward. The expression on the poor soul’s face was that of pure horror. Eyes wide, mouth gaped in a huge O, he looked like a goner. From behind him, the hand of a skeleton was reaching out toward him. Jason’s friends shivered as they looked.

“I have to admit this one freaks me out,” Walt said, now very serious.

Drake inched his face up close to the screen, “The way the guy looks, that can’t be faked. He is staring at his own death.”

Jason was smiling to himself. Now he felt that he was starting to win them over. They had a chance of surviving Halloween.

“Just look at that skeleton’s hand. There are no wires or rods to hold it together. This picture has to be the real deal, my friends. We don’t want to end up like this poor guy,” Jason said in conclusion.

Walt than broke out in laughter again, head back, body shaking with merriment. “Guys, it’s all a joke. You are being punked. This professor creep is trying to trick you into becoming afraid of trick or treating, you bunch of chicken droppings.”

Anger flashed through Jason as he punched Walt in the shoulder. The short, hairy boy stumbled backward, stunned. Looking at his friend with blazoned blue eyes, Jason said, “I am not scared, I just want to be prepared. As much as I find this town boring, I don’t want it to disappear like the ones in Europe. That witch video is a sign that something already is happening here. All I am saying is we need to be ready for what may come.”

Drake got up from his chair and bravely stood between his two friends. “Walt, Jason, we need to dial it down. I’ve known Jason since we were in kindergarten, and I have never seen him this serious. I think he believes he is onto something and since he is my best friend, I’m behind him on this.”

“Hey, I thought I was your best friend,” Fred said, looking all sad.

“Fred, buddy, your best friend is a rock. You’ve told me about all the intimate conversations the two of you have had.” Walt snickered.

“Now are you calling me a rock head or something?” Fred protested.

Walt went into a tittering laugh. He then gasped out, “He actually got it. Wow, there’s more than just stones up there!”

Drake grimaced, trying to act like a parent. Sternly he looked at Walt and said, “I know it’s your nature to make fun of people. Everything is a big joke, right? We’re friends because you’re good for a laugh. If you don’t get serious, then you’re on your own this Halloween.”

“What? You only love me for my jokes?” Walt said despondently.

“No, we’d love you to stop with the jokes. This is life or death I am talking about.” Jason then smiled at Walt. He was the charismatic, daring one of the bunch, and his charm helped him to be the leader of his friends. Standing at attention he looked at his friends as if he was General Patton before a battle. “Now I have a few ideas on what we should do first. Like in any conflict, we will need to scout the territory, research the enemy, and prepare our defenses.”

“Are we going to war with Halloween?” Fred asked, looking very confused.

“All those crazy kids going after candy, now that’s a war,” Walt answered with a grin.

“No, I am not talking about sugar-frenzied kids. It’s what we saw in the pictures. We may have to face them. What we need to do first is to find protection. We are going to Herrick’s Costume Shop.” Jason concluded.

“Costumes?” Drake said, scratching behind his ear.

“I believe if we look like monsters, maybe it’ll give us confidence in fighting them, like knights in suits of armor or something.”

Walt groaned loudly at Jason’s explanation, “What are we going to do, scare the monsters away? I mean Fred over here won’t even need to wear a mask.”

“Dude, you just need to open your mouth to stop a monster. Your bad jokes will hurt its feelings,” Fred said, smiling at his comeback.

Drake was pacing the bedroom looking very thoughtful. He then stopped and said, “Jason is onto something. Historically, costumes were first used to scare away what primitive people believed were the returning spirits of the dead. There could be something to that. At least, the masks can hide how terrified I will likely be at seeing a real ghost.”

“Drake, I hope your costume comes with diapers, you are so going to wet yourself,” Walt snickered evilly.

Drake’s face distorted with anger. Frustrated, he stamped his foot. “This is serious man, very serious!”

Jason went over to Drake and calmed him down. He then looked over at Walt showing his disappointment, “You need to stop with your mean mouth, if we’re to work together and get through this, then we can’t have friends ripping on friends. We need to use our strengths to face this holiday. Drake’s smarts, your craftiness, Fred’s dumb strength, and my leadership and bravery to pull this off. Now we have a lot to do and it’s already almost four o’clock. Let’s go to town and buy some Halloween costumes.”

“Yeah, Ok, sure,” his friends unenthusiastically responded.

Walt then sourly said, “Can we get any cornier, buying costumes to battle ghosts? I think we will end up in straitjackets for Halloween, I know it.”

Walt’s friends didn’t look amused, not at all. It was time to go now.

With that the four friends grabbed their backpacks and left Jason’s room and exited his house. Outside, they climbed onto their mountain bikes and road off. None of them noticed the large black cat in the neighbor’s yard that watched them with intense interest.

-5-

The route to town, while not far, did pass by a number of rustic locations. Jason and his three friends, while racing on their mountain bikes, barely paid attention to the places as they passed by them. From old forgotten factory buildings, haunting farm fields, and abandoned rotting houses were a little too common for such a small town. This was the normal scenery for the four kids. Only when they passed Hester’s Creep House did they slow down. The boys carefully watched the place as they passed by. It was the most infamous of all old houses, with dark legends that stretched back as far as the kids could remember. To their relief nothing was seen in the windows. No ghoul came running out the front door. So onward the kids pushed their bikes, exiting a short cut through a dirt road they had taken and entered onto the main street that led to the town.

It took them about twenty minutes before they came to the main part of town. Riding down the nearly empty street, they passed various business and offices. To their delight, every building was covered with Halloween decorations. Grinning witch heads, dancing cats, glow in the dark skeletons, and what looked like a million orange grins of jack-o’-lanterns were everywhere. Orange and black streamers hung from the stoplights, lamp posts, and a large stage. A huge sign announcing “Autumnville Annual Spirit Parade” could be seen at the end of the street. It was overkill, but everyone in town seemed to love it, including Jason and his three friends. The town’s mayor even campaigned on how the economy of Autumnville depended on Halloween. This must be the Halloween capital of America, Jason thought, and the perfect place for a supernatural invasion.

With a loud squeak the four friends slammed their brakes stopping the bikes in front of the town’s only costume shop. Herrick’s Halloween Costumes wasn’t a large store, but its wide storefront window was just crammed with Halloween decorations and props, giving the store the illusion that it was full of monsters and ready to burst. The display was very cool. Jason marveled at all the creatures and beasts that adorned it. Grinning skulls of skeletons, vampires with fangs bare, crawling zombies, lurching mummies, and cackling witches, were all there. It was a monster zoo, and sitting in the middle was a large plastic jack-o’-lantern, the most prominent piece in the display. Its leering grin and sinister human like eyes made a very unnerving image to Jason. Thinking back, he could remember seeing that pumpkin on display there as far back as he could recall.

“The pumpkin is so ugly, nobody wants to buy it,” Jason said out loud to himself.

Drake curiously glanced at Jason as he got off his bike, “What are you talking about?”

Already off his bike and standing next to Jason at the store window, Walt pointed at the plastic jack-o’-lantern. “Over here, old pumpkin mayor is looking so nasty that its been in the store like forever.”

“Mayor Pumpkin?” Jason and Drake asked at the same time.

“I mean just look at it, doesn’t the face remind you of Mayor Ackerman, the guy who has been running this town the past few years?”

Drake started to snicker as he walked up to the window to get a close look. “Yeah, I can see it, the same plump cheeks and beady eyes. Maybe, he uses it for his election campaigns. Vote for old pumpkin head! Halloween parades for everyone!”

“The mayor is a bit obsessed with the spirit parade. The parade could be dangerous this year.” Jason said.

Taking his time, Fred had finally gotten off his bike after nearly falling over twice. He looked at his friends, worried, “The parade dangerous? Jason don’t destroy our childhood. We all live for that parade.”

“Dude, you’re a baby. The parade is for little kids,” Walt said unkindly.

Fred approached his short, annoying friend and stood over him, towering more than a foot taller. “Do I look like a little baby?”

“OK, OK, I will take you to the parade, you big baby,” Walt’s reply didn’t seem to help Fred’s temperament. The tall boy’s face began to change to a dark shade of red.

Sick of his friends arguing, Jason stepped in-between the two with his hands outstretched and said, “Guys, we don’t have time for fighting. If you want to follow me in this, we need to have something that could protect us. I believe that costumes might help. Besides, my brother works here so he might give us a discount.”

Fred looked down at Jason, he was grinning. “Cool, I can finally get the blue Super Ranger costume. The ones in my size were always too pricey.”

Jason shook his head, “I don’t think witches and spirits are going to be afraid of Super Rangers.”

“I have a brown belt in Taekwondo?” Fred pleaded.

“No, that is not going to help either.” Jason answered.

“Dude, have you ever tried kicking a ghost? Your foot would go right through it,” Walt interjected.

Fred looked at Walt confused, “How do you know? Have you ever kicked one?”

Drake moved to join Jason in trying to stop the two friends from arguing and pleaded, “Fred, Walt, you guys are not helping. We are here to get scary costumes, not to debate on how to battle nonexistent ghosts. Relax. Take a deep breath already.”

Walt and Fred breathed deeply and together returned to a peaceful state.

“Better?” Drake asked still looking concern.

“Yes,” Fred replied.

“Uh-huh,” Walt answered, “But I still think Fred is a big baby, Super Rangers, kicking ghosts?”

“Enough dorks, move,” Jason said as he began pushing his friends toward the store entrance.

-6-

Inside Herrick’s Halloween Costume Store, there were aisles and aisles of candy, costumes, and props packed throughout the place. With walls covered in decorations both new and vintage. A large front counter stood near the entrance, stocked full of little Halloween nick-nacks and a large old register that rested in the center. Manning it was Malcolm Myers, Jason’s brother. He was a tall, lanky, long-haired 17-year-old who could hardly stand still. Always fidgeting and restless, Malcolm would often try too hard to be a cool bad boy and often failed. He was similar to his brother Jason by being the leader of his own pack of friends, who were also a bunch of losers. What made Malcolm different was that by leading a bunch of rejects, it made him the top reject. This distinction made him extra nasty, especially to his brother, who was always trying to impress his older sibling.

Now standing next to the front counter was Judith, a gorgeous gal Malcolm was flirting with without coming across as desperate. She stood there so beautiful in her tight jeans and T-shirt. With long black hair and pretty eyes, she held a bucket of Halloween goodies before her. She just wanted to buy her stuff and get out of the store.

“What I’m saying, Jude, is that the party is going to be fun. The place is perfect!” Malcolm said, trying to appear as a tough guy.

Judith paused to think, crinkled her pale brows and said in a squeaky, high-pitched voice, “That house is so creepy and gross I think you are disturbed just thinking of going there.”

“No, I’m a genius! What is disturbing is no one thought of having a Halloween party there before. I mean, the whole school will be there.” The shop’s door then dinged, and Malcolm glanced toward the entrance with frustrated disinterest. His look turned to disgust when he saw that it was his younger brother and his group of friends entering.

“Remember guys, look for scary costumes. You know, classics like werewolves or skeletons. No cartoon characters or cute animals,” Jason said as he looked back at his friends who were following behind him.

“Oh great. It’s Jason and his goober posse,” Malcolm said sarcastically.

“Hey Malcolm, scaring the ladies I see,” Jason shot back.

Judith raised an eyebrow at Malcolm and smirked, “I think I like your brother.”

“Really, I’m surprised to hear that,” Malcolm said in a huff. He then turned to his brother and waved him to get lost.

At first, Jason didn’t respond. He just stood there, stunned at seeing an attractive high schooler showing interest in him. Then finally, he turned away disappointed on seeing his brother’s angry stare.

“Jason, you’re a babe magnet,” Walt smirked as he nudged his friend in the arm.

“Yeah, I wish. Come on now. Let’s start shopping!” Jason said as he went down an aisle with Drake following behind him. Instead, Fred joyously raced toward the kids section with Walt in tow.

“Come on Fred. Jason said no kids stuff,” Walt protested.

“Well, one look,” Fred answered as he scanned through the kids’ costume aisle.

Walt rolled his eyes and smacked his head, and one should think!

Looking around the store, Malcolm was pleased to see that Jason and his friends were now cowering in some aisles nowhere to be seen. At least, my brother was smart enough to know when to get lost, Malcolm thought. He turned back to Judith with his best smile forward.

Judith returned that smile with a smirk. “This party of yours, it’s not going to be safe. That house has crumbling ceilings, rotten floors, and all those spider webs, ewwwww!”

Malcolm paused to silently stare at his girl of desperate dreams with the most intense look he could manage. After seeing her starting to appear uncomfortable, he spoke with a passionate voice, “Judith, Judith, don’t worry, Judith. My buddies and I are going to check out the house tomorrow. You know, inspect the place like health inspectors. Then we’ll clean it up. Make it safe. Girl, it will be alright. Your friends will all be there. You will be missing out.”

Like his brother, Jason was in the middle of some convincing of his own, except Drake was a much easier target. As the spectacled kid was looking through a pile of rubber werewolf masks, Jason said, “Drake, I know you’re a bit surprised by my sudden obsession with this Halloween conspiracy, but you saw the video. The witch flew over the city hall on Main Street. You can’t take that lightly, buddy. Flying frickin’ witches!”

Drake set down a vampire cape he had been trying on and answered, “If that witch sighting is real, then believing that monsters exist just because of a few pictures and a video is a bit hard to swallow. I mean Fred is gullible enough to believe it right away, and I suspect that Walt will always think this is a joke you’re playing on us. Considering all the times you have stood up for me, I will skeptically go along with you, Jason. You backed me up, I’ll back you up.”

The Jason flashed a thank-you smile and shook hands with Drake. This was followed with a frown as he thought out loud, “You guys haven’t been too hard to convince, but getting other people to believe…”

“Like the mayor?” Drake interrupted.

“Yes the mayor, the police, our parents,” Jason continued, “we need more evidence and pictures. We also have to check out some of the spooky places around town such as the old factory buildings, and even Hester’s Creep House.”

“I’m telling you baby, Hester’s Creep House,” Malcolm proclaimed proudly, “is the perfect place for a Halloween party!”

With Malcolm’s loud insistence, a shocked silence filled the store. Everyone from behind the various aisles now stared at him, their mouths gapped. The infamous Hester’s Creep House was a taboo in this town, a place desperately avoided. Malcolm quickly became angry and shouted, “Everybody, go back to your shopping!”

Walt raced over to join Jason and Drake. “Dudes, we are so going to crash that party!”

“Shhhhh!” Jason hissed, “We will, we will, but we need to go there before my brother and make sure the place is safe.”

“From the roof falling on their heads?” Walt asked.

“No, from the supernatural.”

Walt turned to Drake and mouthed, “supernatural?”

Drake, his face serious, answered, “I’m with Jason on this. We need to keep an open mind while watching out for the unusual.”

Walt slapped his head in frustration. This is going too far and this habit of slapping my head is painful, he thought.

Malcolm finished ringing up Judith’s purchases. The whole time he looked at her with his pleading puppy dog face. Finally, with a half smile she relented and said, “Ok Malcolm, I will think about it. Sounds more fun than going to this town’s insane parade or handing out candy to little monsters, you know.”

“Baby, you’re making the right choice. Every day in this shop I see the little terrors you would have to deal with, like those freaks over there,” Malcolm said as he pointed toward a few aisles back where Fred and Walt began sword fighting with plastic zombie arms.

Judith looked disgusted by the sight. She tossed her payment at Malcolm, gathered up her stuff, and headed for the exit.

“Bye, bye bad boy.”

“Later hotness …” Malcolm replied as he watched her fine behind leave the store. His large grin turned into a frown as he saw Drake and his brother now standing at the counter carrying some costumes. They were also watching the girl leave.

“Boy is she fine!” Drake commented.

“Yeah brother, nice score,” Jason added.

“Oh shut up, you freaks!”

Walt and Fred shortly arrived at the counter holding two more costumes.

“Who’s a freak?” Fred asked.

“Fred, you are. Why don’t you follow Jason’s brother’s advice and shut up,” Walt said and looked over to Jason. “Could you ask your bro about the discount?”

“Ah yeah, Malcolm could you give us a family discount?” Jason meekly asked.

“Are you joking? I’ll give it to you, not the rest of your Boy Scouts. They pay full price!”

“Hey Jason, you said …” Walt protested.

Before Walt could finish his sentence, Drake turned around and punched him in the shoulder. “Deal with it, Walt! We are doing this for our friend, besides there is the P-A-R-T-Y.”

“OK, OK, but you got to spot me some money.”

“What am I, your caregiver?” Drake asked.

“Well, I do care if you give,” Walt smugly answered, holding his hand out for money.

Reluctantly Drake took out his wallet and gave Walt a few dollars. “I’m only doing this for Jason.”

Silently Malcolm rang up the transactions and only after he had received all the money did he finally speak in a menacing tone, “Hey, if any of you butt wipes say a word about my party, my friends and I will use our fists to decorate your faces for Halloween, you hear me!”

The four kids nervously nodded their heads, yes and then quickly exited the store. Malcolm smiled in satisfaction and quietly sang to himself, “I’m a bad boy, yeah I’m a bad boy. Oh that’s what she said, and that is what I am.”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha!” A low deep laugh came from the rear end of the store. Malcolm glanced toward the back and saw a person’s shadow on the far wall. It was near a bunch of vintage paper masks hanging on a wall display. The shadow had two horns on its head.

“Is any one back there?” Malcolm called out shivering. Something was definitely not right. Noticing that no one else remained in the store, he slowly left the counter and headed toward the back. Along the way, he picked up a large plastic sword, holding it tightly like a barbarian going into battle. “Hey, no fooling around in here whoever you are!” His voice sounded stressed, something was definitely freaking him out. On reaching the back aisle, Malcolm sighed in relief. There was no one there.  All the decorations seemed untouched. Nothing changed, except that one of the old paper masks was missing – the mask of a devil’s face.

-7-

Outside of the shop, Jason and his friends climbed back onto their bikes after loading their costumes into their backpacks.

Walt fidgeted on his bike, full of anxious energy and said, “Cool! Crashing a high school party on Halloween. Jason, do you think your brother will kill us?”

Jason was looking back at the store. He thought he had heard his brother call out. “You know, Walt, I’m not too concerned about what my brother might do. It’s what might happen to him at the party.”

“Are you worried that a bunch of drunken teenagers might burn down the place?” Walt asked.

“No, it’s what the place might do to them.”

“What place?” Fred asked, having been too busy trying to stay balanced on his bike to follow the conversation.

“Ah, don’t worry your little brain, bud,” Walt said with a hint of resentment. “The bliss of ignorance, how I wish I knew thee.”

“Man! You’re weird,” Fred spat back.

Smiling, Jason rode off down Main Street with his three buddies trailing behind. Pedaling at a leisurely pace, they were only halfway down the block before anyone spoke again.

Drake, riding next to Jason, said, “Let’s see. Now that we have our costume suits of armor, which I’m not sure how they’ll protect us, our next move should be trying to find as much information as possible about Halloween.”

Jason agreed. “Since our town is so Halloween obsessed, the library should have a ton of books about the holiday.”

Fred looked over at the two, frowning. “No! Not the library! Books, are my worst enemies!”

Walt, Jason, and Drake came close to crashing into each other as they all broke into laughter. Regaining control they turned down a small side street that ended at the town’s library.

Autumnville Library was an ugly old gray building built in the fifties. It was an overly large structure with no windows, and surprisingly for the town, no Halloween decorations. The place looked empty, since most of the town’s folks who could read now-a-days preferred the Internet and books on tablets. The boys felt unease as they approached the building because they knew the stories. The library was famously rumored to be haunted, with tales of books mysteriously being dropped on readers’ heads and spooky whispers that would not be shushed. Whole cacophonies of strange disturbances were rumored to plague the place. The rumors were probably made up by a few high school students trying to get out of doing research, but to Jason’s friends the building still made them skittish.

The friends climbed off their bikes, and parked them on a bike rack, except for Fred. He was having trouble again, and Walt was teasing him.

After quickly breaking up another annoying fight between his friends, Jason led his friends to the entrance and said, “Now, we need to be on the lookout for books on Autumnville and of course, Halloween. Hopefully, one will clue us in on what to do next.”

“Scooby-Dooby Doo!” Walt joylessly cried out, feeling like he was caught up in a cartoon mystery.

“Do you think they will have Scooby-Doo books?” Fred asked.

Walt cringed. “I don’t know dork bulb. Why don’t you check the kid’s section to find out. Also, while you’re there look for Chip Mouse’s Halloween Party. I hear that book’s a real useful resource.”

“Yeah, that’s right, for crashing the Halloween parties!” Fred said grinning brightly.

Walt went into a tittering chuckle as he shook his head. Jason and Drake ignored the two boys as they opened the entrance door to the library. All four of them gasped at the musty smell that assaulted them. They felt like great explorers, entering an ancient Egyptian pyramid. Before them was a lonely dark corridor, causing them to hesitate. Slowly gaining courage, they moved through while Walt’s nonstop chattering echoed off the walls. His mouth tended to run on when he was nervous. His attempt to add a humorous spin to such a creepy place was a prime example.

In a deep menacing voice, Walt spoke out, “Prepare for a sight that has scared millions of illiterates. A place so terrifying that you’re only allowed to whisper. It is a dungeon to children that have term papers to do, and a trap for book nerds that love their books too much.”

Opening a double door at the opposite end of the corridor, the four friends stepped into the library proper.

“Welcome to the Hall of Literary Doom!” Walt loudly proclaimed.

“SSSHHHH!!!” His friends answered.

“Walt, you’re going to get us kicked out,” Jason quietly whispered with an edge to his voice.

“I would be doing us a favor,” Walt snickered back.

Before them was a large room that took up most of the building. A single set of stairs in front of them led down to a sunken floor that was full of row after row of bookshelves. It was a maze of literature. Jason worried about their chances of finding any useful books before it got too late. It was a school night after all. In the center of the book maze was a large checkout desk and lording over it was the maze’s Minotaur, Bradley Carter the town’s librarian. He stood there, towering over the counter, a 6 foot 2. So old that his hair was completely gray and his face was full of wrinkles. He was looking at the boys, his expression unhappy, but he remained silent.

Drake, noticing Jason’s concern, said, “I think we shouldn’t stay here too long. That dude doesn’t look too happy with us. Fortunately, I know where the Halloween area is. Jason, we’ll head over there while Walt and Fred babysit each other in the children section.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Jason replied and nodded.

“Cool, kids’ books,” Fred said quietly as he was led away by Walt. Jason watched feeling sorry for his buddy Fred. Ever since he hit his head while doing bike stunts, he had become more simple minded. Walt, the friend that hung out with Fred the most, only did it because he enjoyed how Fred was such an easy target for his jokes. He wondered, “Which one was the greater fool?”

True to his word, Drake led Jason to a large Halloween section that covered three long rows of shelves. Overwhelmed, Jason stepped back unsure where to start.

Drake, nodding to his friend, began rifling through the books. “Now let me see, if I was going to write a report on the holiday I would start out with the smallest book I could find on its history.”

“Why the smallest?” Jason asked.

“I doubt you would want to read a thousand-page monster, I sure wouldn’t. A smaller book will summarize information without going into much detail. You don’t want to spend the next two weeks reading it?”

“No, we’ve only got two days.”

Drake stopped at a particularly thin book, read its spine, and then pulled it out.”How about this one? A History of Halloween, right to the point.”

“Sounds good to me,” Jason said as he glanced around the library feeling watched. He was. Bradley, the librarian, stared at him intensely from behind the counter. He looked like a sentry guarding his fort. This really creeped Jason out and whispering to Drake he said, “I think we should hurry. Count Book-ula has his eyes on me.”

“Yeah, just a moment, I want you to hear this. Celtic tradition held that on Samhain which took place on the date of October 31st, a gateway to the underworld would open allowing both spirits and fairies to enter the world of men. Costumes were of great use in disguising the wearer from these malevolent entities. Squash often were carved with hideous faces and placed at people’s dwellings to protect their homes from these fairies and spirits. You know, I think your costume idea might have been a good one.”

“Thanks Drake, grab a few more books and let’s get out of here.”

Drake spotted the librarian making unnerving faces at them. Chuckling, Drake said, “Boy is he weird.” He shrugged and then turned back to Jason. “Don’t worry. I think he is shocked that someone our age would actually take the time to look for a book in the library.”

“Please, get the books. You can read them at home and give the rest of us a Cliff Notes version,” Jason replied impatiently.

“Sure Jason, whatever,” Drake said as he started grabbing a couple of books off the shelf, reading off the titles as he went along. “The Secrets of Halloween, Small Town Halloween Folklore of Autumnville, Ghost and Goblins: The Who’s Who of Halloween, and Stop the Trick: How to Keep Trick or Treaters away from Your Home.”

Jason wondered about that final title. “What’s with the last book?”

“I don’t know. What works on kids may work on spirits.”

Jason just nodded and helped gather up the books. “Let’s go get Walt and Fred.”

In the children’s section, Fred was having a great time. Amazed that there were so many children’s Halloween books, he had found such titles as Yellow Duck’s Halloween Sqactacular, Furry Bear’s Haunted Honey, and many others. He was a little disappointed on not finding the Chip Mouse book. Walt sat on the floor with a book over his face, laughing each time Fred read one of the titles.

Jason and Drake walked over to the children’s section to find Fred and Walt. Joining them Jason asked, “How’s the research going, guys?”

Fred turned to Jason with a sad look on his face. “I can’t find Chip Mouse’s Halloween Party. How will we learn about party crashing?”

“Don’t be too concerned Fred, we’ve found plenty of good books here. Now we’ve got to roll.” Pointing toward the librarian, Jason bravely led his friends to the checkout counter.

Watching the approaching boys, Bradley Carter regarded them with a look of curiosity.  Drake stepped forward and took out his library card. As the librarian began scanning the books that the kids were checking out, he spoke, “I see you have quite a lot of interest in the holiday, All Hallow’s Eve. That’s good. Most of the people in town don’t come in here anymore, even for Halloween books.”

“We need them for the information.” Drake replied.

“Are you researching a new technique on obtaining treats or is it for some diabolical trick you have in store for someone.”

“Nothing like that, we think that something supernatural may happen here on Halloween.” Jason asked as he bravely came to the counter.

Librarian Bradley fixed Jason with a strange look. “Are you a believer?”

“A believer?”

The librarian nodded his head, “A believer in the other.”

“Other what? Is this about church or something?” This was getting too weird for Jason.

“No son, what I mean is other meanings, other worlds, other dangers.”

Walt stepped forward and grabbed the library books while whispering, “Jason, we’ve got to get going. This guy is going all creepy mystical on us.”

“Yeah, too much homework, you know,” Jason said as he suddenly led his friends out of the library.

“There are things I could tell you. Answers I want to show you. Oh well, come back again,” Bradley said as the kids left the labyrinth of books.

Outside Jason and his friends didn’t hesitate to get on their bikes, wanting to get away from the strange encounter.

“That guy was weird.” Fred commented as he managed to get upright on his the bike with the first try.

“Believe! Believe!” Walt called out, doing his over the top preacher’s voice.

Drake tucked away the library books in his backpack and said, “Whatever he was talking about, it sure sounded odd. Do you think he knows what might be happening on Halloween?”

“Don’t know, but he sure must not like Halloween. The library is probably the only building in town that doesn’t have any decorations. Strange,” Jason pondered.

“I think he’s crazy, that’s what happens when you read too much. So many books so scary,” Fred exclaimed as he peddled his bike away.

-8-

By the time the boys reached the outskirts of town the sun was nearing the horizon. Above them the sky was a sharp blue streak of color with a tinge of orange at the horizon, signaling the approach of sunset. Jason made a decision to stop at one last place before going home. He didn’t think his friends would like the idea. It was important. He was concerned about his brother. Leading the way, he looked back at his friends. “Guys, we need to go to the Creep House.”

“What? Why?” Fred blurted out, so surprised that he almost fell off his bike.

“Dude, it’s where the party is going to be that we’re crashing. To be successful, we have to scout the territory beforehand.” Drake responded.

“Having a party at the Creep House is just crazy!” Before Fred could protest more, Jason hit his breaks, causing his bike to skid to a stop. The others quickly braked behind him so they wouldn’t crash into the young daredevil. In front of them was a monument to all that was wrong with their town, the imposing structure of Hester’s Creep House, known to all as the spookiest place in Autumnville.

Built in the late 1900s, it became the home of five generations of Hesters, with none of them surviving past forty. Murder and suicide was a disease they kept catching. Built by Grayson Hester, the place at that time was the largest house in Autumnville. Taking thirteen workers over a year to construct, it was plagued with many strange and mysterious problems. Then when finished, Grayson would only live a week in it before being murdered by his jealous wife with a carpenter’s hammer. Death by passion took all the passion out of the remaining Hester family members. This pattern continued when Grayson’s siblings died shortly after starting their own families. The entire town knew that a black hex was on that unfortunate family, which ultimately ended with Brian Hester. He put a finish to the Hester’s dark legacy with his own hands and a rope noose. As to why he did it, no one really knew. Though many guessed that the young man wanted to be done with the dark curse, others thought it was due to loneliness. These were the well known town legends that ran through the four boys’ minds as they stared at the place, it was all very unsettling.

Now the house itself had absorbed all the family’s misery. Large and imposing, with two stories and an attic, the house looked menacing and evil. Dramatically, its shadow stretched out before it likes a great specter, ensnaring the four children within its shade. The house was made up of graying wood boards full of rot and cracks. Its dark green roof was pock marked with missing shingles revealing blackened holes. The house’s many broken windows showed darkness within and only the faint whiff of a frayed curtain could be seen. This house was everything a haunt could look for, Jason thought. While observing his friends’ fear, Jason felt nothing but concern for them.

“Your brother is throwing a party here? I have a new sense of admiration for him. That dude’s fearless!” Walt said in awe.

“Earning your respect is a pretty low bar to achieve, Walt. I remember the time Fred did it by just eating his own boogers,” Drake commented, his voice sounding a little too intense.

Fred was trembling and turning pale. He managed to say, “You want to go in there? You can’t! No, please!”

Jason worried about his large friend, patted Fred on the shoulder. He needed to sound confident, reassuring, or he would never get his friends to go in. “Guys, it’s daytime, it should be fine. Just think, my brother wants to go in there on Halloween night. Now that’s scary.”

Jason then slowly led the way to the front porch. Carefully climbing the rotting stairs he entered the porch and stood by the front door. “See guys, it’s OK. The place is just an old house.”

Fred looked up at him from the front yard, pleading, “Jason, you don’t want to go in there, I’ve heard stories about this place…”

“Hey, it’s all old news. Ghosts, murders, corpses walking around, all made up for babies,” Jason lied, trying to install a little confidence in his friends.

Still scared Fred responded, “Wha-what about those pictures you showed us? I thought you said they were real?”

Jason smiled back at his friends, he really needed their help. “Fred, it’s not Halloween yet so I think we are still safe. We need to do this to protect my brother. Even if he is a jerk, I still care about him.”

“Fred, why don’t you stay out here and suck your thumb like the baby you are. Real men such as Jason’s brother will be in there having fun on Halloween night. Not scaredy little boys running from imagined ghosts,” Walt was being mean again.

A tear trickled down Fred’s cheek as he pleaded, “No, listen! Do you remember Bobby Felton? Well our classmate Darrell, you know him. He once told me he had seen Bobby coming out of this house all zombie like, and a day later …”

”He killed himself. We’ve all heard that one. Darrell would tell you that super heroes flew out of his butt just to have you as a friend.” Walt interrupted.

“Now Walt, be nice. Look I’ll go in first and tell you if I see anything scary.” Without waiting for his friends to react, Jason opened the old creaky front door, and calmly he stepped into the house. “I don’t see any ghosts Fred. Nothing here but old junk!” he called out.

Drake squeezed Fred’s arm as he passed by him, saying, “I’ve got Jason’s back, I’m going in.” Drake then entered the old house next.

“Looks like you’re going to be out here on your own, buddy. Shout if you see any zombies in the grass.” Walt gave his friend a condescending look as he left him.

“Wait, I’ll go. I just don’t want to be alone,” was Fred’s weak response and the two joined their friends in Hester’s House.

Inside, Jason and Drake searched through the front room, taking note of all the piles of rubbish and garbage that filled the large space. Three darkened openings led off deeper into the house and a large banister stairway went up to a second floor. Decorated with large amounts of cracks and dirt, the walls were so faded it was hard to tell what color they were. There were no signs of graffiti which would have been normal for any long abandoned place. Having none here didn’t surprise the boys at all. Hester’s Creep House reputation proceeded itself. After making a quick inspection of the room Jason concluded that while the place looked disgusting, at least it seemed safe.

“Look the only thing scary here is the amount of cleaning Jason’s brother will to have to do.” Drake said to Walt and Fred.

“See this place is as empty as Fred’s head,” Walt said. He was very animated, jittering with excitement. Nobody ever went into this place. The stories about it were just too scary. He felt like an astronaut first stepping out on Mars. It was historic.

“Hey!” Fred cried out pushing Walt away from him. On seeing that his brute force didn’t dampen his friend’s spirits he added, “If you like this place so much, why don’t you move in?”

After kicking some of the rubbish, Jason faced his friends and said, “Well, I’m happy to report that after being here for over a minute, I have not turned into a zombie. This is only just a dumpy old house.”

“I don’t know Jason, you’re starting to look a little undead to me,” Walt said pretending to be frightened.

“It’s just all the dust in here, I can barely breathe,” Drake commented as he waved a hand in front of his face to circulate the air.

Jason, gaining the attention of his friends said, “All right! Now that you’ve all manned up, we need to search the place to make sure it’s safe.”

“So what are we, home inspectors?” Walt complained.

“No Halloween inspectors!” Jason announced.

Fred shook his head groaning, “And I thought Walt’s jokes were bad.”

Jason looked into the faces of his friends concerned that they weren’t taking all this seriously enough. “Guys we need to check this place out quickly before it gets dark. We’ll need to split up because it will be evening soon. I doubt that you wimps could handle this place at night.”

“I could, except that we didn’t bring any flashlights,” Drake said, trying to sound brave.

‘Sure, whatever makes you sleep better at night. Now Walt, Drake, and I will each take one of these entryways. Fred, since you’re now brave enough to join us, you get the upstairs.”

Walt stepped back, worried. “Great. The dummy gets the dangerous job, just like in the movies.”

“What are we looking for, Jason?” Drake asked as he removed his glasses to blow some dust off them.

“According to Professor Grimmgraves blog, he mentions strange lights, unusual shadows, and human bones? You know anything that is related to Halloween that looks odd. Heck, if you even see a pumpkin, shout out. Well considering that nobody ever goes in here, if you find something that isn’t normal for an old abandoned house, then please come and get the rest of us.” Without further elaboration, Jason headed toward a doorway to his right.

Walt and Drake looked at each other, shrugged, and moved toward their separate passageways. This left Fred standing in the middle of the room by himself. He wasn’t happy about it.

“Guys, I don’t think we should be splitting up,” Fred’s voice squeaked out. Seeing his friends ignoring him, he slowly inched his way toward the staircase. He could hear his heart beating and wondered why it sounded so loud. As the large boy placed his foot on the first step, his body began to tremble as a loud creak came from the stairs. Taking a deep breath Fred told himself he could do it. He would not let his friends laugh at him. Lifting another foot he went up a step and looked up into the darkness above him. Something white was moving up there, coming closer. Fred let loose a high-pitched cry as he saw the grayish white shape approach the top step.

“AHHHHHHHHH!”

Jason, Walt, and Drake turned in time to see Fred flee from the house screaming. Confusion and panic spread across the three boys’ faces as they turned and ran after their friend. By leaving the house suddenly, they missed seeing the white-boned hand of a skeleton grabbing hold of the top stairway banister.

Jason, Walt, and Drake were quite a distance from the house before they caught up with Fred. He was riding his bike like the devil was chasing him. Despite all their pestering, Fred wouldn’t tell his friends what he saw. Giving up on the house, Jason called it a night, and the four friends went their separate way to home and dinner. On his way, Jason silently thought to himself that he was on to something terrible, and he had to warn his brother.

-9-

It was nearly seven o’clock when dinner was ready. Jason had spent the whole time waiting in his room wondering, “What was happening?” Fred’s fear was proof that something dangerous was in the house. He had to convince his brother on how foolish his party idea was, but Jason already knew how Malcolm would respond, a fist to his face for wrecking his brother’s plans. Later, as he sat across from his brother and mom at the dinner table, Jason felt real trepidation. Fighting back that feeling, he looked at his mom for courage and smiled. He loved her very much. She was so strong and independent. She had supported them as a nurse for the past five years after their dad had died in a car wreck.

Sharon, Jason’s and Malcolm’s mom, smiled back at her son, unsure of the attention he was giving her. She was in her mid-30s, short blond hair, in great shape, and still very attractive. Jason had definitely gotten her good looks, but with Malcolm she wasn’t too sure what genes he had inherited from her. She always felt proud of her younger son. Never shy, he had a strong presence about him. Malcolm on the other hand, had become angry and unpredictable. He hadn’t taken the death of his dad very well, and she pitied him for that.

Glancing now over toward his brother, Jason saw that Malcolm was deep into devouring his supper. Watching him, Jason thought of an idea. Maybe he could scare his brother out of his plans, and he would use their mother, the queen of gossip to help.

“Mom, you know the old Hester place, right? Was it as creepy when you were a kid?” Jason asked innocently.

Malcolm shot Jason an angry look. Demonic eyes burned at him with threats of punishment, and Malcolm mouthed silently, “Don’t you dare.”

Their mother, unaware of Malcolm’s reaction, just sat there looking thoughtful. She smiled at both her boys and then said, “Let me see, I think Brian Hester still lived there back then. He was quite handsome and spooky all at the same time. It was said that he liked kids. But if you were invited in, you would never come out!” Dramatically she paused then added, “Of course it was all nonsense. He was living under the shadow of his family’s legacy, and the poor man eventually ended his life due to loneliness.”

Gasping loudly, Malcolm started coughing up his food. His eyes bulging in rage as he glanced at his brother, his face flush with anger. Sharon quickly got out of her chair, and began patting her son on the back.

“I’m sorry dear. I didn’t mean to be so gruesome during dinner,” she said, her voice full of concern.

Malcolm’s coughing slowly subsided. Wiping his mouth as he caught his breath, Malcolm smiled weakly at his mom. “Don’t worry mother I’m fine, just swallowed wrong.” His voice had a bitter edge to it.

Jason, feeling that his tactic might be working decided to jump in for the kill. “Mom, did anything unusual ever happen at the house, such as supernatural occurrences?”

Still standing behind Malcolm, Sharon paused to think. Her older son stared up at her looking a little worried. With a slight sigh of remembering, she answered, “Well there was that time after Brian’s death when lights would mysteriously go on in the house. The mayor solved that problem by having the power cut to the place. Now there also was the rumor that Hester’s body was buried in the backyard in a secret family graveyard. Hidden so that nobody would disturb the family’s restless spirits, like anyone would want to be stomping around in that family’s plot. Oh, and supposedly a pumpkin patch was rumored to grow in the basement. I always thought that was a weird one.”

Malcolm turned to his younger brother, clearly still angry and said, “Pumpkins in the basement, all haunted houses need them.”

Off in the kitchen, a timer began to ring. Sharon glanced in that direction and smiled, “Dessert’s ready. Pumpkin pie straight from Hester’s cellar.” She then left the dining room, chuckling the whole time to herself.

This gave Malcolm the opening he was waiting for. Reaching across the table he grabbed his brother’s shirt. “I know what you are trying, jerk. You are not going to scare me with your ghost talk, and if you tell mom about the party, let’s just say you will be remembering this Halloween for the rest of your life, whenever you look in the mirror.”

“I will remember, I mean I won’t tell on you. I ‘m still hurting from the last time you beat me up. All I’m trying to do is save you.”

Malcolm grimaced on hearing that. “What from? Having a good time? This party means a lot to me, I could make real friends and not the oddballs that I hang out with all the time. Also there is Judith. You know having a younger brother is a real drag on my life.”

“It’s your life I am trying to protect,” Jason pleaded.

Malcolm gave his brother a look of complete disgust. Acting like he was holding snotty Kleenex, he quickly let go of him. Sharon then entered the room carrying two slices of pumpkin pie. She eyed her two sons and said, “Is everything alright? I was only joking about the pies coming from Hester’s basement.”

“Yeah, we’re fine mom,” Jason said as his brother coldly stared at him.

Later on that evening Jason sat on his bed, his mind racing with concern. Between Fred’s reaction in the Creep House and his brother’s blind desire to use the place, this formed a dilemma for him. Somehow all this was tied in to those images on the internet and Halloween, he felt. Now his friend Drake was smart, maybe if he talked to him they could figure something out. The two of them could go back to that house and find out what scared Fred.

Jason, so caught up in his thoughts, failed to notice his mom watching him from the doorway. Only as she sat on his bed did Jason respond to her presence.

“Hi mom,” Jason said without much enthusiasm.

“What is going on between you and your brother? Malcolm was fuming during dinner.”

“Nothing, mom. Sibling rivalry, you know.”

Sharon reached over and brushed her son’s blond hair. Giving him a skeptical look she said, “Rivalry huh? Is Malcolm hitting you again? He is old enough to do better.”

“No, he hasn’t beaten me up lately.” Jason lightly protested.

“Hmm, if you and your brother haven’t been fighting, what is all this interest in that Hester place?

A worried look crossed Jason’s face, but somehow he kept his voice calm. “I just wanted to be caught up with all the ghost stories around town. You know, it is almost Halloween.”

Sharon rolled her eyes and gave her son a “isn’t that obvious” expression. She then said, “You are not planning on going to that old place are you?” Her voice was very serious now.

As if he was a first-class poker player, Jason remained cool and bluffed, “That’s a negatory mom, I won’t be going anywhere near that old place, especially on Halloween.”

“That’s good, because that house is rotting and unsafe. You could fall through the floor and break your leg.”

Jason nodded his head in understanding. Sharon smiled and got up from Jason’s bed and as she reached the doorway she turned to the sound of Jason’s voice.

“It’s not just the house mom, Halloween night is not going to be safe.”

“Don’t worry, dear. I’ll check your candy for razor blades or poison if you like.”

Jason almost did one of Walt’s patented head slaps. His mom didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter he loved her so much. She was so warm and caring, twice as much since losing dad. So instead of showing frustration, he smiled at her and wished her goodnight. Sharon turned off the light and closed the bedroom door. Jason was not going to have a good night.

-10-

It was at one o’clock in the morning when Jason’s nightmare began. Starting with him sitting in class, his classmates all around him, he felt that something was not right. Turning to look at the teacher, Jason saw that a skeleton stood in the front of the classroom and was lecturing. No words came out of its bony jaw, just the clack, clack, clack of the skull’s bare teeth gnashing together. Reaching up the skeleton removed its head and held it out for the whole class to observe. Jason almost fell out of his seat as he saw now the rest of his classmates had become skeletons too. Imitating the teacher, they also removed their skulls for examination. Then Jason felt his own hands reach up to grasp his head, pulling it off his neck he turned it to face his body and saw that he was a skeleton too.

With a cry Jason woke up gasping from the anxiety caused by the nightmare. Glancing around his dark bedroom he saw it was dark and empty, no skeleton classmates here. As he sat up on his bed Jason noticed something was wrong with the bed sheet. He normally had a black and orange comforter on the top, now a white blanket covered him. Reaching over to touch it, he snapped his hand back having felt an icy coldness that radiated from the sheet. In response to Jason’s touch the sheet began to slowly rise. A man shape form rose from under the white sheet and where the head was two black circles opened and stared down at him. They were the dead eyes of a ghost. Bending down toward him, those dark circles enveloped Jason, and he tumbled into darkness, falling into a black void.

At first his only sensation was the open air around him as he fell and fell. Then just as suddenly he felt something wooden in his hands, his body then landed on what seemed to be a pole, it was actually a broom. Wrapping his arms and legs around the broom stick, Jason noticed his downward motion slow to a stop and now he was moving forward now. A cackle issued from behind him and the young boy slowly turned his head to face a hideous old witch. Her wart covered face had a large crooked nose and chin that looked like a half moon face. Grayish-white hair poked out of her long black pointy hat. Her pale, white face glowed framing her dark clothing, standing out in the night sky. Trying to scream, Jason heard nothing coming out of his throat for it was frozen. The witch continued to cackle as she pointed down below her with a long bony finger. Jason, observing what was beneath him, quickly regretted it.

Below them was a dark sinister city. Odd-shaped grayish-white skyscrapers reached out toward them, lit by odd colored lights, creating a spectral cityscape. This grim city stretched for miles in all directions forming a nightmarish mountain range of structures. Feeding on Jason’s dread, the witch banked her broom downward, and as they approached the buildings Jason saw that they were actually made up of great piles of round white objects. Moving closer he realized that those round objects were actually skulls, great mounds of them, forming a whole city of bones. Jason felt his body tremble as they drew nearer and nearer to the city. The broom skirted the top of a particularly tall building and Jason noticed movement, the mound of skulls turned to follow the broom’s flight, clacking their bony jaws in anticipation. Suddenly banking to the left and accelerating, the witch raced her broom past the dead city and out over what looked like the suburbs.

Now these suburbs were not built of bones, but of old rotting wood. Large groups of ancient crumbling structures lined along a maze of streets. It was a neighborhood of haunted houses below him and as they passed by he could see monsters exiting the homes. It was a suburbia of horrors. A nightmarish version of the American dream, could this be real?

The witch having shown Jason enough of her neighborhood turned the broom upwards, toward what looked like a dim, full moon. There was definitely something wrong with it, its shape not quite a circle. It was too wide, its top and bottom too flat, and it glowed with a sickly orange color. Approaching the moon, a great triangle shaped eye opened and then another. Jason, horrified, cried out as a huge misshaped mouth cracked wide open with a dead greenish light burning inside. It wasn’t a moon! No, it was a great monstrous pumpkin in the sky, shining down its malevolence to the horrible world below. Toward the light they flew until Jason had to cover his eyes with his hands, blocking out the brightness of the dead light.

Then there was darkness and Jason cautiously opened his eyes, seeing his darkened bedroom. He was awake.  With a start, Jason sat up in his bed, pulling his legs to him. Forcefully yanking off all his sheets, he made sure that none of them would come to life. Breathing quick breaths, he waited until he calmed down. Nothing had moved and he was definitely not dreaming anymore. Eventually Jason fell back to sleep, not noticing a strange bright eyed owl staring at him through his bedroom window.

-11-

It was later than normal when police officer David Hill finally fell asleep. The front seat of his police cruiser was always his favorite place to catch up on rest. It was comfy, and the whole idea of earning some green while napping pleased him immensely. Parked behind the bushes with his radar gun out, anyone passing by would think he was hard at work on the lookout for late night speed demons. This always cracked Officer Hill up. Speeders in this town, it had been a decade since anyone had ever disturbed his peace and the guy was from out of state. So when David’s dream of a nice warm beach in Bermuda was disturbed by the buzz of his radar gun, he was not pleased. Glancing at the display, he saw 80 mph flashing on the screen.

“Racing this late at night, disturbing my peace, oh you are going to be locked up,” he said, his voice deep and gravely. Looking out through the windshield he didn’t see any headlights of an approaching car. “That’s strange. Must be run-in stealth.” He commented as he reached over and flipped on the headlights. He then paused, stunned at what he saw. An lady dressed in black flew past on a broom right before his cruiser, he could hear the cackling the witch made as she went by.

“As long as I live, I will never forget what I just saw.” Officer Hill gasped.

A dead whispery voice then spoke out from the back of the police car. “That won’t be long.”

Officer Hill screamed as a skeleton’s hand grabbed him by the shoulder from behind. It would soon end for everyone in Autumnville. Halloween was infiltrating the town.

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

 

Born in Blytheville Arkansas, but living there was not to be.

Ended up growing up in Buffalo and Denver you see.

Went to the University of Colorado and got a film and English degree.

Then moved to Los Angeles to work in the movie industry.

Was a sound FX editor for eight years, but that was not for me.

Raised my daughter at home, lovingly doing it for free.

I’ve become a writer, so try my book, if you hear my plea.

It’s an exciting and scary novel, I’m sure you would agree.

I hope you like my life rhyme and not found it too goofy.

 

Website:  One Dark Halloween Night – The Ultimate Halloween Adventure

 

 

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