WELCOME TO THE 13 DAYS OF HORROR
Nothing goes better with Halloween than monsters. My next guest write is from a writer who knows the true sides of darkness, concocting the kind of nightmares you hope never come true. Her writing is incredibly diverse, ranging from travel journaling to horror fiction, and her achievements high – placing in the top 40 of the 2009 Editor Unleashed Flash Fiction 40 Contest, and works published on Flashes in the Dark, Six Sentences, and Gloom Cupboard. Plus…she’s cooler than a cold day in hell.
It is with great pleasure to welcome you, Laurita Miller and her grisly tale, Monsters.
by Laurita Miller
The evening was planned in meticulous detail. We went out just before dark, when the fairy princesses and puppy dogs were heading home, their little plastic pumpkins filled with treats. We painted our faces with grey, green, and purple make-up in an attempt to replicate bruised and decaying flesh. The evenings were cold after sun down, so black robes pulled double duty as costumes and coats.
We were giddy with anticipation for the evening ahead. Halloween was always my favorite evening of the year, but this one had to be extra special. It was Marcie’s first year of tricks and treats. The town she lived in before moving here didn’t allow trick or treating and discouraged Halloween celebrations – something about it being the Devil’s holiday.
I had the feeling it would also be our last year of ‘halloweening’. We were at that questionable age where people answered their doors and gave us the look, the one that said “aren’t you getting a little old for this?” It saddened me to know that Halloween next year wouldn’t hold the same thrill.
Our plan was to start out visiting the homes on our street where most of the neighbors gave out homemade treats – candy apples at the Clark’s house, chocolate chip cookies with the Woods. After that, we would walk through the cemetery toward Spruce and Juniper and end the evening at the Murphy farm. Every year the Murphy’s had apple bobbing, hay rides, ghost stories, and a haunted house in the barn. I knew Marcie was worried about this last part, but not me. I wasn’t afraid of monsters, not even on Halloween night.
We laughed and skipped along as we knocked at doors, accepting treats, and compliments from those who answered. Mrs. Davis made chocolate frosted cupcakes, and we washed those down with sweet apple cider at the Collins’ house. We each got an apple from Mrs. Henderson. Most kids hate getting apples, but I liked how they made the rest of my candy smell, sweet and crisp. Marcie brought a lantern, one of the old-fashioned kinds that swung and clanked as we ran through crunchy leaves, past grinning jack o’ lanterns.
The last of the sunlight dissolved, bleeding into the horizon as we pushed through the gate and started along the cemetery path, our excited chatter giving way to silence as the atmosphere, the very idea of being among the dead on this night impressed itself upon us. Marcie held the lantern high, illuminating gravestones and casting long, skittish shadows.
A shuffling sound to the left of the path started my heart pounding. Despite my rational nature, I felt sure, if only for a second, that the dead has arisen to join us. Two dark figures emerged from the shadows, and even though I now realized that they were still very much alive, I was frightened. Something in the way they moved toward us sent alarm bells ringing in my head, and we were only halfway through the graveyard.
The figures moved into the path, blocking our way. They spoke to each other, or maybe to us, but their words were lost on me. I read only the tone in their slurred mumblings. I took Marcie’s arm and dragged her off the path into the graveyard, hoping the two would have their laugh and leave us.
“Awww, now that isn’t nice. We just want to have some fun.” Their voices carried toward us on the wind and I could tell that they were following. I refused to turn and look. My only focus was to get out of the cemetery as quickly as possible. I stopped only when I heard Marcie yelp.
“What have you got there?” The voice was rough, mocking.
Marcie clutched her trick or treat bag to her chest, though it only contained a handful of tootsie rolls and Mrs. Henderson’s apple. Her eyes and mouth were wide open. She made no sound.
“I don’t want your candy sweetheart. I want what you have under here.” A hand darted out, grabbing Marcie’s robe. I heard a rip and a gasp, but nothing more.
I stood frozen. I hoped they would give up and let us go, yet part of me knew different. Everything moved in slow motion. The second figure emerged from the gloom and both lurched toward Marcie, the first clutching her arms, the second grabbing her at the hips. The lantern dropped to the ground, plunging us into darkness. Then Marcie screamed and I snapped.
Without thinking, I rushed to the noises. One figure stood illuminated by the pale light, the other was on the ground. I couldn’t see Marcie. I threw myself on the prostrate figure, but the other pulled me off.
“You’ll have your turn,” he snarled and flung me away. I staggered, then teetered, toppled, and fell. Hard. My chest hurt and my head was ringing. My arms and face were covered in dirt, and I pulled dead leaves from my hair. The only light came from above.
I was in a grave.
Above I could hear Marcie screaming, muffled, and then piercing. There were scrambling, shuffling noises, indiscernible words from voices harsh and violent and ugly. I had to get out. I had to get help.
A shovel stood against the wall of the grave. I grabbed it and started to dig, heaping the dirt against the wall. Furiously, I shoved the blade of the shovel into the earth and tried to focus on my steady rhythm and not the sounds above – Marcie crying, begging, and the vulgar laughter that made my stomach turn.
Marcie’s screams reached a crescendo loud enough to wake the dead, but although they surrounded us, no one came.
No one came.
Once the mound of dirt was high enough, I pitched the shovel over the edge of the grave and used my arms to pull myself up. Dirty and bleeding, I felt as though I were truly rising from the grave, from the dead. But I was very much alive, and I was furious.
I marched toward the hunched figures, dragging the shovel behind me. I raised the shovel and swung as I stepped, first at the dark shape standing over my friend. The iron blade struck him square in the face, knocking him flat on his back. His legs gave one violent twitch and he was still.
The figure hunched over Marcie had no time to react before I brought the shovel down upon his back. He rolled off, arms raised to protect his head. Adrenalin took over now. There was no mercy. Though the screams had faded to sobs I still heard them as I raised the shovel and brought it down again and again, until my arms ached and the air was thick with the smell of copper and death. There was only silence.
Marcie sat on the ground, wiping her face with her hands, smearing it with dirt. She looked at me, eyes wide with fear.
“Help me,” I said, and turned back toward my grave.
Two more feet I dug into that open pit, throwing the dirt to the end of the hole. Marcie re-lit the lantern and stood over the grave, bathing us in soft yellow light. I finished the digging and hoisted myself back onto the grass. Marcie helped me drag the two bodies to the edge of the hole. They were heavy and hard to move. Dirt and leaves clung to their clothes and skin. They fell into the hole with heavy thuds, limbs bent and twisted.
I dug into the stale, musty earth once more and covered the dead. Three feet of earth was enough. I threw in an armful of rotting leaves and held the lantern high to survey the scene. It was difficult to tell in the darkness, but there seemed to be little trace of what had happened. The only thing left was the smell, heavy and putrid.
Marcie and I walked back in silence, back towards homes that would never be the same. My face and body were splattered with blood, but no one we passed gave us a second look. It was Halloween after all, the time for monsters.
Life went on and we tried to put that night behind us. Maybe it would have been possible to forget if not for the haunted look in Marcie’s eyes. The emptiness. For me there was no emptiness. Something crept in there; shadowed figures took hold like seeds and grew, spreading darkness, choking my soul.
I still await Halloween night with giddy anticipation. The thrill is still there after all, but now it is different. My needs are darker than ghost stories, sweeter than candy. I know there are worse things than monsters. I have seen them. I have become one.
Laurita Miller here: Brain Droppings