The Next Day: The Morning After Halloween

It’s cold this year.
Halloween usually is.
But, it has never really bothered him.
Cold weather means he can be alone, uninterrupted.

He runs his fingers through his thinning hair and watches the clouds slide across the moon until the windshield fogs up. Tonight is the night – he can feel it.

He stops his car in the middle of the field. Kicking rocks and trash away from him.
He knows the ritual by heart. He can do it all with his eyes closed. He’s memorized the incantations and movements needed.
Tonight…tonight is the night he proves himself right.

With only the moon above and the headlights shining behind him he gets to work.

It’s easy.

A circle of salt. Any amateur magician knows that.
Candles at the four cardinal points.
But, that’s not enough.
He’s tried all of that before.

In the middle of the circle he sets the most perfect pumpkin he could find. A face drawn on it in blood- his god awaiting animation.

Opening the trunk, he smiles at the sinners, the four non-believers, the wretched and the weak that doubted him for decades.

He hears their sobs. He almost feels bad for what he’s about to do. But it must be done, and it must be done soon. He cannot miss his chance. This is his only chance.

He grabs one of the wriggling bodies and drags them from the trunk. The smell of the crying man turns his stomach. He’s glad he put a sheet over him – they were friends once. It makes this easier.

The man kicks and tries to scream, but he was smart and gagged him earlier.

He lights the candle on the Eastern side of the circle and forces the man to his knees in front of it.

The knife is sharp. It cuts through the makeshift ghost costume, then skin and muscle and finally it strikes bone. The sheet quickly turns red and the cries become wet moans.
The candle flares up.

He smiles.
Tonight is the night.

He lights the candle on the Southern point of the circle. The woman screams as he pulls her from the car by her hair. She tries to fight him off, but years of abuse at her hands gives him strength. The green makeup he painted on her face smears with tears and the witch’s hat falls to the grass. He isn’t kind with her. He stabs her repeatedly and lets her drop to the ground unceremoniously.

The candle flares up.

Tonight is the night.

He lights the candle to West and drags the rotting carcass of a dog to the circle. Bones protruding against wax skin and dying white fur, eyes gone blank and clouded. He paints symbols on the bloated stomach with yellow feathers.

The candle flares up.
He can feel it happening already.

Tonight is the night.

He lights the candle facing North.
He takes his last hostage from the car, wishing he had gagged him.

“You don’t have to do this. We’re friends. We were best friends.
I don’t deserve this.
They didn’t deserve this.
What did my dog ever do to you?”

He pushes the last man to the ground, whispers in his ear as he slides the knife’s blade into his back, between ribs and into his old friends heart. “I’m sorry, Charlie”

Painting his face with blood he enters the circle. Staring at the painted pumpkin, their faces a gross mirror of each other.
He pulls a ratted, blue blanket over his head and begins to chant.
Quietly, at first.
Rocking back and forth on his knees.
His words getting louder as the wind picks up.
Louder as the four flames around him grow.
Louder as the pumpkin in front of him begins to glow…brighter, brighter, then…it begins to rot. Collapsing in on itself. Smoke spiraling from the dried stem.

He can hear birds.
The blood on his face is dry and cracks when his face contorts into a cry.
The sun comes up.
All around him, dying pumpkins, melted candle wax, and dead friends.
He wipes his tears.
Next year. It will happen next year.

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