WELCOME TO THE 13 DAYS OF HORROR
Our next howl of horror is from a charismatic writer of unique style and a recent admiration of mine. His stories spin between fable, mystery, humor, and horror, are always enriched with salient detail, and never conclude with expected outcomes. His newest release, Rhiannon’s Glade, at Flashes in the Dark is another great example of his enchanting work.
Please welcome my next guest, Barry J. Northern and his fantastic story, A Trick of the Night.
A Trick of the Night
by Barry J. Northern
It was hard to convince Clara to go stay with her mother that night, a year ago today. She hadn’t believed me, even after I’d waved her off. It was already dark by then, nearly too late.
I bolted the door, the strange ringing in my head had already begun. I had escaped my curious malady the previous year because we had been abroad. I don’t know why that made a difference. That was the first year Halloween passed without incident for me. The year before the holiday, Clara had been away with her mother, and so did not witness my annual fugue that year either. As a young man, before I met Clara, I’m told I nearly strangled a trick-or-treater. I remember nothing. Every year since then, I have contrived to be alone.
Don’t ask me why it happens. No doctor has ever admitted it even does, for the rest of the year I am perfectly sane. I believed then that I had grown used to managing it.
I walked around the house and turned off all the lights. The darkness helped a little, and it would help prevent callers. In the kitchen I lit a candle, and stared into its hypnotic flame. The ringing in my head abated for a time, but then the kitchen light turned itself on inexplicably. I moaned. It had begun. I hoped I wouldn’t start seeing people who weren’t there again. I turned off the light, shouting “be gone, be gone!” up the stairs to ward off ghosts. The light didn’t come on again after that.
I stayed in front of the soothing candle, but before long my hands began to shake. I had been prepared for this. They needed something to do. I went to the kitchen drawer and took out the pumpkin-carving utensils I had bought as part of a kit earlier that week; a small saw, a scoop, and a little knife, all with orange plastic handles molded into Jack o’ Lantern faces.
With the knife and saw to grip, the twitching in my hand began to calm down, but I couldn’t remember where the pumpkin was. It had been too large to store with the other vegetables. I went out into the hallway but it wasn’t there. Strangely though, I noticed Clara’s coat still hanging on the door, with her shoes underneath. I hurried out, eyes squeezed shut, fighting off the image that had steeled into my mind of someone hanging there. She must have worn a different coat, that’s all.
Back in the kitchen I saw the pumpkin on the kitchen table. I shrugged, used to such quirks, and with saw and knife in hand I quickly set to work. It was a tough one, and it took a long time to cut the top out, but once done I soon had it hollowed out with the custom scoop, leaving the fleshy pulp out on the kitchen table. I’d clear it up later. I carved out eyes with the small knife, and cut a jagged smile before putting in the candle and replacing the lid. As usual, I couldn’t quite get it to fit right and the light shone through the gaps.
I stared at the flickering light glowing from within the pumpkin face for several minutes, a sense of calm washing over me. It was as if I had poured my madness into my creation for I was soon asleep.
I had thought the banging was in my dreams until the police burst in and woke me up. They tell me a neighbor had heard the screams. I couldn’t have been asleep for long, for the candle in the pumpkin still illuminated the room. I remember looking up groggily at the two policemen as they came charging into the kitchen, and the look of horror on their faces as they skidded to a halt, another man running into them as they blocked the doorway. The first policeman, a young man, fell to his knees and vomited, but the other two were as pale as ghosts, transfixed by something behind me.
The clock struck midnight, and the ringing in my head suddenly stopped. I turned and truly beheld what my insane handiwork had wrought. My beloved Clara sat in the kitchen chair across from me, her neck broken, head twisted around to sit on the table in a mess of bloody oatmeal. The sputtering candlelight mocked me through the empty sockets of her eyes.
Barry J. Northern blogs here ~ Barry J. Northern: Speculative Fiction Writer