Halloween is here. Reed knew it because the cold air stung his nose and made his eyes water. Every year he would hear his parents whine with other adults about the Texas heat that sticks, even in autumn. “When’s it going to get cold? When are we finally going to be able to wear our sweaters?”
A few chill days would pass in between, hinting at what’s to come once the luke-warm autumn air finally broke. Every year Reed would be deceived and plan his Halloween costume based on the way the fall night air felt…and every year, once Halloween dawned, he would find himself shivering in his costume boots.
Today though, Reed was pretty okay with the cold. He was thirteen, turned thirteen as of this morning, matter of fact. He was too old for trick-or-treating, so he was walking to school in his normal attire: jeans, a graphic tee, and his hoodie.
Yes, Reed was a Halloween baby, and though he’d always thought it was cool his birthday fell on All Hallows Eve, he found himself slightly spooked after his friend, Tommy, pointed out his thirteenth birthday was on a Friday, and thirty-one backwards was thirteen. Reed was aware this was a stretch, but it spooked him all the same. He thought he might should watch out for black cats and ladders just to avoid any extra bad luck coming his way.
Buses passed full of elementary kids donned in shrouds, robes, wings, and wigs; Mallory and Mike ran by dressed like Raggedy Ann and Andy; when Reed glanced over his shoulder, he saw Benjamin dragging his toes along the cement with each step, scarring the black leather of his shoes. Benjie was wearing a shirt that read ‘This is my costume’ and his hair was spray can painted orange. Reed waited for his classmate to catch up.
“What’s up with you?”
“Not a damn thing,” Benjie shot back.
“My bad for asking. Just surprised to see you kicking dirt with such a cool costume on.”
“Eat shit and die.”
“Tits to you too.”
They walked beside each other, but Reed forfeited the small talk. Benjie continued to drag his shoes along the pavement – Reed was sure now he was trying to wear holes in his shoes.
“I’m too old for a damn costume. I told my parents I didn’t want to do the Halloween thing this year, and my mom came in this morning with this shit and said, ‘It’ll be fun!’” (Benjie emulated his mom’s high pitched voice.) “She wouldn’t let me out of the house without it…I’m just praying they send me home for dress code violation.”
Reed fought back a laugh. “I’m not going out this year eith…” Benjie yanked on the hood of Reed’s jacket so hard he fell flat on his back and knocked his head on the pavement. Reed thought to jump up and beat his ass, only he couldn’t see straight, and he felt sort of like he might vomit. A car horn blared as it passed by. He swallowed a couple of times and held both hands on the back of his throbbing head.
“That car almost creamed you, dumbass.”
With clenched eyes and clenched fists, Reed thanked Benjie for saving his ass but said next time he should find a better way to do so.
The rest of the walk was quiet. Reed kept palpating the lump on his head, wincing when he brushed across it. He expected at first to pull his fingers back and see them stained with blood, though he never did – the impact hadn’t broken the skin. He thought if it had, he might have gotten the day off school. Once they made it through the ID check, they went their separate ways.
“See you in third period,” said Reed. He turned and immediately heard someone giving Benjie hell over his “shit orange” hair, which left Reed wondering who had seen orange shit before.
The day went by as most do, boring class after boring class. Reed fought nodding off in first and second period, then again after lunch in fifth and sixth. He’d stayed up late playing games the night before and was praying all day for a pep rally or at least a movie in one of his classes. The only exception to the day had been the worse than normal clumsiness that left Reed pissed off and ready to go home.
He stumped his toe hard enough to bruise it through the shoe, knocked his funny bone twice, and jammed his finger in gym. To top it all off, he dropped his pencil in the bathroom before his last period, then knocked his already tender head on the underside of the porcelain sink. He actually collapsed after that, stayed in the fetal position on the dirty floor for a while trying not to cry.
Once Reed was finally home, he thought about the plans he made with Tommy and Benjie. He considered calling and backing out. After everything, he didn’t feel like going, he told himself, and he was obviously experiencing one hell of a streak of bad luck. His best bet was to stay home with store bought candy and movie binge. He didn’t want to ditch Tommy, though, and he even more didn’t want to make Tommy go alone with Benjie. Benjie can be a bit of a dick, and he knows he can wear Tommy down to agree with pretty much anything – it’s why they were now going trick-or-treating.
Reed plopped down on the sofa with an icepack on the back of his head and mentally shifted through the rubber masks still stacked in his closet. He had a clown, a monkey, an old granny mask, and a grim reaper shroud that blacked out his whole face. Clowns were played out and he was sure the reaper get up would be too small. He wondered if he could talk his mom into grabbing him a last minute mask before her and dad had to leave for the party – ya, fat chance at that. He settled on the granny mask and thought to grab a mumu from his grandmother’s house down the street.
He napped on the couch for a while, woke up to pee and eat, then passed out in his room for an hour longer before Tommy called and said he was walking over.
“Oh, you’re going out?” asked his mother. She was putting the final touches on her ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ makeup in the mirror by the front door.
“Tommy talked me into it. We’re going down to Granny’s before we meet up with Benjie.”
“Okay, well, be home by…”
“Ten, I know.” Reed saw green painted hands emerging from the hallway behind his mother before he closed the front door behind him.
“Dude, that still trips me out.” Tommy was laughing while he recorded Reed dancing and mouthing the words to a song playing from his phone. They were screwing around – Benjie was late.
“Do you want to just go? We’re going to miss all the good stuff.” Reed felt a hard push on his back, almost sending him to the ground.
“You gonna start without me, shit face?” Benjie was still in his ‘costume’ from school, but had added a large link chain around his neck and wore a rubber skull mask.
“We were supposed to meet half an hour ago. I thought maybe you were washing your shit orange hair.” Tommy was rolling by then, but zipped up when Benjie shot him a mean glance with a fist aimed his direction. “Come on, let’s go guys.”
The first three houses they passed all had dark porches. The next five were lit though. Reed felt ridiculous, three tall boys with deepening voices holding out pillow cases to ask for candy. He had money – he could have bought candy. As the night went on though, he cared less about his pride as his bag grew in weight. They stopped long enough to each cram a few pieces of cholate down, then turned the corner and started on the next row.
The three zig-zagged across the narrow neighborhood street, hitting all the lit houses without having to double down the other side. His mom would have scorned him for eating candy that hadn’t been checked and for crossing the street every thirty seconds, but hey, she wasn’t there – she was probably drunk wherever she was. Two of the houses on this street were handing out full-size candy bars, five of the homes were answered by women with huge ta-tas, and they passed a trio of girls they planned to track down again soon. It seemed Reed’s shit luck from earlier had taken the night off.
After failing to find the girls again and practically running down three more streets, they decided to turn it in for the night. It was after ten anyway, and though his parents probably wouldn’t be home until midnight, he thought with his luck he better not push it. The three walked together much slower than when they had started. Benjie picked at his candy non-stop, throwing the empty wrappers back in his bag, while Tommy mouthed a caramel apple sucker. Reed carried his heavy bag over his shoulder, suddenly realizing how dark it was around them.
They had walked several blocks, and all the houses were running out of candy, so dark porches dominated every street.
“If I were a burglar,” said Reed, “this would be one hell of a night to score. A lot of neighborhoods don’t have street lights. It gets pitch black once all the porch lights go out.” Both his companions looked around then, Benjie’s eyes returning to Reed’s with a mischievous look in them.
“You aren’t wrong, shit breath.”
“Are we going to do this all night.”
“All year,” Benjie replied. Reed rolled his eyes and kept walking, now with a tighter grip on his bag. He pulled his phone out to check the time and thought of switching on his flashlight. He would have, except Benjie would give him hell for it. “Hey, let’s hit this last one. I bet they have big bars. Look at the size of it.”
Reed looked up to a tall dark house he didn’t remember seeing before…in fact he could have sworn this property was an open plot. He ran through a thousand ‘maybes’, like maybe they sold the property, but that didn’t make sense because the house looked old, but people could move houses now right, so maybe they sold the lot then moved an old rickety house way the hell to nowhere Texas.
“No man, I’ve got enough. I need to get home.”
“Chicken shit. Are you afraid of your parents or the dark more?”
“It’s just one more house man,” chimed Tommy.
Reed rolled his eyes and started up the sidewalk with the dynamic duo, agitated at Tommy taking Benjie’s side over his. He looked up to the house, tall and fragile looking with dark windows and open shutters. The house wasn’t completely falling apart, but it looked like a good summer storm could take most of it down. Gas lamps hung on either side of the door, both burning with a purple flame.
“Maybe they don’t even have anything. It’s too late, all the good stuff is gone. I bet they didn’t turn out the lights because they’re gas. We are going to wake someone, and they are going to be pissed.”
“Chicken shit,” was all Benjie said without slowing his stride. Reed wanted to leave, wanted to at least duck behind the bushes. He kept waiting for his mom to call him too, but found himself suddenly thankful at his parents’ party habits. When Benjie finally rang the doorbell, Reed felt his knees ready to run.
A silhouette moved behind the glass in the door. Reed squinted through the glass and took a step back.
“Don’t be a chicken shit.”
“Dude, enough,” said Tommy, who stepped back too.
The silhouette moved inside again, this time closer to the door itself. Reed realized he was holding his breath. He looked to Tommy who was actually shaking.
“Come on, let’s go,” Reed started when he heard the metal clack of a lock opening. “We’re sorry if we woke you, your lights…”
“Nonsense,” said a sweet voice from the dark opening. The silhouette stepped onto the porch where the purple light danced around her. Reed felt his heart quicken. The homeowner was a young adult female with long, wavy, chestnut hair and eyes as big as her breasts. “You boys are out late. Most of the candy hunters have wandered home by now.”
“Well we don’t have a curfew since we are teenagers,” Benjie started while Reed thought to smack him, “and your lights were still on, so we figured you must have had something worth giving out.” The woman laughed with a hand raised over her mouth – Reed thought she even seemed to blush a little.
“Well of course I do. Isn’t that what Halloween is all about?” She reached behind her, her soft hand returning with a large bowl filled with mini versions of pretty much every popular candy on the market. “No one seemed to want to stop by my house tonight, so I’ve got the works. Have your fill.”
Benjie’s hand was in the bowl in an instant, raking three handfuls into his bag before he plucked two small chocolate bars from the bowl and ate them on the spot. Tommy looked hesitant, but he took three handfuls of his own then pulled a new caramel apple sucker from her bowl to replace the one he’d just finished. Reed felt weird, didn’t like anything that was happening, but to avoid teasing or trouble, he grabbed a handful and dropped it in his bag.
“Is that all you want, sweetheart?”
“We already have a ton,” he said as he held up a fistful of heavy pillowcase.
“Surely there has to be something else your little heart could want.”
There was something alright, but he kept it to himself. He hadn’t been brave enough to even hit on a girl his own age. On top of that, his initial thought wasn’t an innocent pick-up line. He thought he’d love to lose it to a girl like that. The woman was holding eye contact with him still, and now lowered her gaze as if she heard his thoughts. She pushed her leg forward from the slit in her skirt. It wasn’t until then that Reed realized she was dressed as a witch – he hadn’t looked much further than her face and tits.
“Do you have any alcohol?” asked Benjie. Reed thought for the third time that day he’d sure like to whop that kid a good one. Benjie looked to the guys and shrugged with a shit eating grin on his face. They all three watched the woman for her response.
She leaned over forward with a wide grin on her face. She held eyes with Benjie now as she lowered to meet his brow. She jested at Benjie with wet words but Reed missed the gist of it – he couldn’t look away from the velvet line cutting into her high breasts. He had a feeling Tommy was locked in too, because he was equally silent.
The woman, still talking, raised her hands to rest on her chest. She laced her fingers together and rested her hands on the soft white skin. Reed saw then her eyes cut his way, and he immediately looked to the floor. He had been caught staring, and worse, he felt himself growing – his pants getting tighter in the crotch. He tried to think of anything but her hands and what they were touching. Benjie would never let him hear the end of it if he saw.
Reed forgot his boner when he heard a loud snap. It reminded him of the time he broke his collarbone skating. He looked up to see the woman’s fingers, all of them, stuck inside her own sternum. Blood was running from the opening. It was bright red against her light skin. The boys started to back step, but unable to look away, they watched her grip either side of her rib cage and pull out.
The front of her split open like a chicken on Christmas, but she did not collapse or bleed out like he knew they were all expecting her to do. Instead of organs and intestines spilling from her belly, what looked like one hundred snakes doused thick in her blood fell to the ground and began slithering their way. Tommy and Reed dashed the second the saw the serpents, but Benjie hesitated. When the boys reached the edge of her yard, they heard Benjie scream.
Benjie’s loud cry was quickly muffled. In sync, the two running looked over their shoulders just in time to see a snake slither inside Benjie’s mouth. They ran hard, some of Reed’s strides not even feeling like they connected with the pavement. The both of them jumped the stack of stairs at the end of Reed’s porch, and he turned every lock after he slammed the door in its frame.
Copyright W.B. Welch – All Rights Reserved