The beginning of my next work in progress.
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.
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.
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.
Today was the worst in my life.
I got three voicemails today. One fired me from my job. One ended my five-year relationship. And one was from my mother.
I got to the bridge at about 7:00. It spanned from the good part of town to the bad. Water rushed underneath. I never learned to swim, so the proximity of the rocks to the water’s surface was of no matter to me; the job would be done either way.
I swung my legs in the nothingness they hung in. The October breeze tickled my ears and burned my throat.
The ninety-foot fall was kinda fun. About halfway down I became very aware of the golden lion that I’d hung around my neck for the last seventeen years, ever since my father gave it to me the night before he took this very same fall.
I braced for impact.
Time passed. My eyes were heavy when I tried to open them. White florescence flooded the slits in my lids. It was a chore to face that light fully.
The white light.
Actually, the white room. Filled with people of all ages. A place soon explained to me by a six-year-old girl in a purple babydoll dress with a white bow in her hair. She called this place “THE WAITING ROOM” and told me this was the place where souls waited to die.
Sad it was to see this young girl waiting to transition as I was. Thankful I was to hear her say souls were also here waiting to be born…and she was one of those.
Those souls waiting to be born were waiting to choose their parents.
I gave her my sob story. Not that a six-year-old girl would fully understand. And she didn’t.
She did, though, ask if she could have the lion that hung around my neck.
I wrestled with it in my gut. This girl meant nothing to me. But I meant nothing. Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken that jump.
She wanted the lion? Sure. I gave it to her.
The six-year-old girl gave me an orientation to The Waiting Room. She brought me to a wall with four windows and told me to look out of the each of the windows.
These windows looked out at the people whom I’d left. I saw them from a perspective of a photo they’d had of me.
I looked at my former boss straight in the face as he took my Employee of the Month photo down from the wall in the breakroom.
I looked at my ex-girlfriend from the photo of us on her night table as she engaged in a round of break-up sex with the guy who I’m sure she had broken up with me for.
I looked at my mother from one of the school photos she still had up on her fireplace. A man was with her. Beating her. I assume she owed him the fifty dollars she’d called to ask to borrow from me yesterday.
Through the fourth window, I saw Lorelai. Lorelai was the waitress at the diner I used to go to every morning on the way to job at which I was once Employee of the Month. She was pretty, and she made me feel good.
And now, she was crying.
I’m guessing news of my jump has circulated by now.
Lorelai wasn’t just crying. She was sobbing. Uncontrollably. I saw in her glassy eyes something I’d never seen before.
Was Lorelai in love with me? Did I want her to be?
I was shaken to my core. I did want her to be. I had no idea why, but in that sobbing woman I saw a single reason to keep going.
Then I thought of my mother. If I go now, I can’t protect her.
I thought of my job. I can get back on that wall.
Suddenly, I knew I needed out of the Waiting Room.
I fought. I fought. I fought.
The next time I opened my eyes, I was back on the bridge.
The jump had never happened. Time had turned back.
I gave my mother the money she needed.
I told my boss I’d once pissed in his coffee mug.
I called her back and said I had been on the DL with the guy she was about to have break-up sex with.
And then I went to the Diner…ordered my usual biscuits n’ gravy…then asked Lorelai on a date.
Three years later, Lorelai and I were married. Another year after that, she crushed my hand in the delivery room as she gave birth to our daughter.
Lorelai held her first. Then it was my turn.
And that little hand reached up and grabbed the lion that still hung around my neck.
And I knew that little girl in the purple babydoll dress and white bow in her hair had picked me.
John was seated and strapped to the chair. In front of him were the victims of a horrible crime that they believed he committed. But he was innocent, and dumb. His poor decisions throughout the investigation and trial put him in this chair.
There were voices around him, but all he heard was the pounding in his head. All he felt was the wet sponge that was placed on top of his head and the black hood that covered his face. It smelled horrible. He innately knew many people died with this same hood over their heads.
The voices had stopped. Then, he felt it. Millions of electrons pushing through his skull into his brain. At first it felt like a huge burst, but then it seemed to have slowed down, like he could feel every electron passing through his skin, into his body. They flowed down his torso, through his legs and out his feet to the grounding plate below him. It didn’t hurt anymore. All he felt was movement.
Just as quickly as it had started, it stopped. He felt the restraints removed from his arms and legs. Finally, he felt the hood being pulled off his head. His vision was blurred. Someone was in front of him.
“Come on, we have to go!”
The urgency of the command made John get up. John looked around. Everybody was still there, but frozen and like ghosts, everybody except for the stranger who freed him.
The stranger spoke again, “They’re coming…Hurry!”
John finally spoke, “Am I dead?”
“Yes.” was the response. “Now we need to go, unless you want to go to Hell!”
She feels bad, even though she really did love him.
She was certain it would work.
She really wanted it to.
It was love at first sight.
The type you hear about most of your life but never truly believe in.
The eyes that meet across the room and the whole world and time stop kind of love at first sight.
Their first touch was electric.
Their first kiss was like a wildfire.
No sex yet. She wanted to, oh, how she wanted to.
But she didn’t want him to see her scars, to see her naked.
She hadn’t shown her naked body to a man in a long time.
And this man was special. She didn’t want to scare him off.
It was love. Perfect love.
They’d stay up all night talking and laughing.
Telling stories and watching the clouds move on the night breeze.
She would have married him in a heartbeat.
He said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
She said he could, she knew a way.
When he drank the poison, it was a much more violent death than either of them expected.
She sat on the floor with him, as his mouth foamed and his limbs twitched.
When he finally died, she was relieved. Happy.
Where was he?
She waited for days.
He never showed up.
Of course, how could she be so stupid?
Suicides go to Hell according to the Catholics.
And he was a Catholic.
She had died in a car accident, through no fault of her own.
The ladder in the trunk that her friend rear-ended went through the windshield and nearly cut her in half.
She feels bad about what happened.
She really did love the boy.
The priest lay dead on the floor when I walked in.
His head, twisted in a way that made my stomach feel the same.
If this man of the cloth failed, what chance does a two-bit hustler like myself have?
The little boy is possessed. That’s what his family said.
I didn’t really believe it until the dead priest.
I really believed it when he used my middle name, which I’ve never told anyone in twenty years.
I fully believed it when he sprayed me with shit and started levitating.
Sometimes, I guess, it takes a drastic experience to make a cynic like me come around.
I close the bedroom door behind me, locking out the crying parents and praying neighbors.
The boy sits on the edge of the bed frame, swinging his legs back and forth without a care.
“So, what’s up, champ? Got yourself a bit of a cold?”
The boy chuckles. I guess whatever has control has a sense of humor. Good. Maybe I can buy it a beer and it will move on without any trouble.
The boy starts coughing. Violently. I can see his ribs straining against his skin with each guttural cough.
He spits something at me.
Fleshly. Covered in blood. Hard.
“It’s a tumor.”
I flick it away from me. Disgusting. Like, really disgusting.
“That’s nice. Mind keeping stuff like that to yourself? Got a bit of a queasy stomach here, you stinkin’ up the room with shit, and all.”
He climbs off the bed, closer to me, looking into my eyes.
I know it won’t be good, whatever is going to happen next, but I can’t show fear.
He kisses me on the forehead.
I see visions.
The boy contorting in pain. Coughing and vomiting blood.
Bones being ripped out of his back.
His stomach exploding inside of him.
Shitting his intestines into the toilet in one huge, hot, splash.
“Do I see what? That was some disgusting…I don’t know what that was.”
“They were his nightmares. His fears. That’s why he called me into him.”
He climbs back onto the bed and lights a cigarette.
“Where did you get those? You’re like…ten.”
“The priest. I made him bring them to me.”
I nod, like it makes sense. It doesn’t, but I can tell there is a bit of ten year old logic mixed in with this demon.
“So the tumor?”
“The boys. He was dying.”
“Got it. And where is he?”
“He’s a cat. That’s what he wanted. That was the trade. This body, which is deliciously falling apart and rotten, for his soul to be placed into the cat he’d watch from his bedroom window every night.”
“And he’s happy?”
“Look for yourself.”
I follow his ten year old pointed finger out the window.
Down in the street below a cat stops chewing on garbage and looks up at me.
It stretches, goes belly up, but keeps eye contact with me.
“Alright. Seems fair. Drink?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
I walk out of the house with the demon-in-a-kids—body. The parents are wailing and trying to stop him, but one look from the boy seems to set them right.
Out on the street, the cat purrs and circles our legs.
The boy reaches down and scratches it’s head, then lights a cigarette and points to the nearest bar.
Don’t let him fool you.
The clown’s oversized lips are not smiles n’ face paint.
His mouth is swollen; he’s licked his lips chapped and then raw.
He craves the meat of your children on the night after the year’s biggest sugar binge.
He wants to tie up the intestines of your sons & daughters, knot them up like pretty-in-pink, red, and purple balloon animals.
On Halloween Eve, the clown dreamt of your youngest brimming with M&Ms and Snickers Bars, your first born full of Swedish Fish and Skittles, and your middle child stuffed with Reece’s Pieces and Pixie Sticks.
Your kin has become the colorful pinatas the clown’s own father would never let him have.
Yes, now this grinning clown dreams of goblin girls and Batman boys, of cowboy kids and Harley Quinn teens.
The house with the toothbrushes will be the clown’s last stop.
If he smells minty fresh, you’re safe.