Dark Shadows

A Halloween Story

Think about it. There are shadows, and then there are shadows. Each man, each woman, each child has their shadow, must have their shadow, must carry it with forbearance, with patience, without complaint. They are our companions whether we like it or not. And whether they like it or not.

You see, shadows are lost souls who serve time for past evils. They are chained to our bodies with invisible links. But there are those who resist their punishment, their purgatory. They are the restless ones. Shadows who won’t follow the rules. Shadows who won’t behave. Shadows who will do evil. And some of these shadows with sheer willpower break their chains and escape to go hunting.

Now I am not one to say that you have one of those shadows. But have you asked yourself, what is your shadow up to when it disappears? I don’t want to unnerve you, the Reader, but think about it. And keep watch. Keep very very close watch.

William Clarence Monroe had not thought much about his shadow. Though he had spent forty years, bearing the thing  around. Then he came to reside in the House.

William Clarence Monroe was a parapsychologist out to prove that the supernatural, that evil, that the occult did not exist. He was certain his investigations of the House would finally correct that misconception. When he told his colleagues of his plan, they urged him to stay away from the place. From the stories they had heard, it sent shivers down their spines. It had a history, a reputation for evil occurrences. No amount of pleading would stop William. He had a mission. He had a calling.

He would prove that things that go bump in the night are simply things that go bump in the night. There are no monsters under our beds, simply wooly boogers that make their way like tumbleweeds across a room and under the bed. They were not things to fear, rather things to laugh at. William never came across a thing or an event that could not be explained as a natural phenomenon. There was a logical explanation for the stories about the House.

The House stood on Spectre Hill, had stood there for over one hundred and fifty years. Some said it was cursed. All, who came to sleep within its walls, never left. At least, not alive. It was a dark and lonely house with vines and overgrowth covering its walls and hiding it from the road. Where there was not black, there was gray or a dark sickly green. It had no neighbors. It stood alone on that hill.

From time to time, people aways off in the town nearby would hear screams emanating from its halls. Some suggested that the House be torn down. Others said that it be best to leave well enough alone. Besides no one knew who owned the House. Perhaps the invisible inhabitants of the House were the proprietors.

William Clarence Monroe arrived at the front gate of the house early in the morning. The front door was unlocked. When he went to open it, he saw the head of Anubis, the Jackal God, carved into its wood. He stopped for a moment to study the carving and acknowledged that it was incredibly detailed.

He unloaded his equipment in the ballroom-sized room on the other side of the front door. He stood in the middle of the room and surveyed his surroundings. There were several sets of stairs leading to a second and a third story. From the ballroom, there were also three halls leading deeper into the House.

“Yes,” he said and smiled. “This should do. This should prove my premise. When I get through, maybe we can turn this place into a theme park. People do love scary things.”

He went to work wiring his wires. He plugged things into his generator that plug into generators. He set up his instruments. And he got ready for the night. He unpacked his food and ate his first day’s ration. He planned to stay for three days just to get a measure of the place.

Once he finished eating, William Clarence Monroe started exploring. He found a huge dining room, then a kitchen that was right out of the nineteenth century. Next he discovered a library with thousands of dusty volumes, tomes from bygone days that no longer existed anywhere else as far as William could tell. Some were books on the occult but not more than a small percentage. Many were books of biological science. Some works of cosmology. Nothing to make one suspect that the former residents were particularly interested in the occult or witchcraft or unlawful practices. Then he moved on to the second and third floor, counting fourteen bedrooms. Nothing out of the ordinary.

William made himself a large pot of coffee and settled in to wait through the night. The first night and the second day went by without incident. He monitored his instruments, taking the readings at random once an hour. All was quiet. All seemed peaceful, calm. Then he noticed that his shadow had disappeared. “Funny,” he said out loud, then went on to monitoring his instruments. The second night passed. He got his forty winks from time to time, then went back to his routine. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Early on the third day, William Clarence Monroe’s shadow returned. His instruments, at first, took notice, making small movements. Then other shadows. With each new shadow, the instruments moved a little more, then a little more. By dusk on the third day, the House was filled with dark silhouettes. The instruments were jumping. It was as if a seismograph was registering a ten-point earthquake. One instrument after another shut down from overload. William hurried from room to room, each room overflowing with shadows.

As he hurried, first his shadow, then the others made their way toward him, threatening. Then his hurrying turned into running. They were chasing him. Desperately he made for the front door. He turned the knob but the door wouldn’t open.  The shadows pushed him toward the Jackal head, carved into the wood of the door. The Jackal opened its mouth.

In the town nearby, they heard a scream. The scream sent shivers down the townies’ spines. The pastor of the First Church dropped to his knees, supplicating his God to save him from the hell he knew he deserved. The mayor of the town turned to his son and said, “Oh, it’s just the House. Never go near it. As long as you stay within the borders of the town, you will be safe.” Parents hushed their children and told them that it was the Boogeyman. “Be good or he will get you.” Some of the older folks recalled the last scream they heard.

A uniformed police officer daily passed the green Ford parked on the street in front of the House. One Wednesday afternoon he pulled up behind the car. He had not noticed before that there was no tag on the Ford. He got out and checked out the car. The car had not moved for some time. He radioed in for a tow truck to haul the vehicle away. Several months later, it went on auction to raise money for the elementary school.

William Clarence Monroe was not missed. None of his colleagues seemed to recall where he had gone. He had no close friends, and he was without family. In his fanaticism for his mission to disprove ghosts and the occult, he kept others at a distance. When he didn’t show up for his next round of classes, his department head at the college decided that, for whatever reason, Professor Monroe would not return to teach.

Think about it. There are your shadows, and then there are your shadows.

Where nightmares come from

The nightmares came slowly, subtly. Working their way through the mist of his sleep, the dreams came. They came and they would not stop.

They got so bad that he resisted sleep. After two or three days in the ring of resistance with a punch of coffee, a jab of no-doze, he found himself on the ropes. Then he was down and asleep, and the nightmares were back. He asked several of his friends to keep him awake. They tried their best, slapping him awake, even used him as a punching bag from time to time. This worked for about a week. Then he fell flat on his face. He was down and out.

The day he fell asleep at the wheel of his BMW, he crashed into a tree. His car was totaled, and he went into in a coma.

That’s when the gods really got active. Hephaestus forged more nightmares, hammering them into hard, steel swords.

Several days later Hermes came to the Swordmaker’s furnace. “I’m here for the swords,” he said to the Swordmaker.

Hephaestus took each of the ten swords, admired his work, then passed them on to the Messenger. Hermes turned and jumped. His winged boots lifted him into the air and to the River Styx, that dark, dank cesspool which flows out of the Underworld. Chiron was there to meet him with his ferry.

The Boatman drove his barge uphill toward the Halls of Olympus. The river slowly cleared of its puss and soon they were at the foot of the home of the gods.

Hermes flipped a coin to Chiron. Otherwise he could not get off the barge. Even gods have to pay the piper. He arrived at the Halls of Olympus and Hera stepped from behind a curtain.

“Are these them?” she asked, realizing that they were.

“Good,” she said, lifting the swords into her arms.

She took them and made the ten thousand miles to the Dream Room with three steps. As she did, she thought, “This will teach that son of a bitch not to choose me.”

The nightmare-laden man lay in his coma while the swords dropped one by one into his subconscious. They came fast and furious. One after another, they came.

His body jerked, then shook.

“Call the doctor, stat,” the nurse called out from his room. She grabbed the paddles from the defibrillator and placed them on his chest, trying to jumpstart his heart. A doctor in his green scrubs rushed into the room. He did a quick take of the situation, then stopped the nurse. He realized that the man’s body was dead.

He turned the cleaning-up over to the nurse and walked out of the hospital room and into the waiting room.

“I’m afraid Paris is dead, Miss Troy,” he said to the tall, blue-eyed blonde Amazon before him.

Near 500 words: The Monsters Are Coming To Get You

The Boo Alarm went off twenty minutes before the midnight of October 31st, alerting the residents of Poeville. The monsters from Halloweeny Town were on their way. Dr. Van Helsing had warned this would happen. Fortunately, the mayor and the town council heeded his call for action. Thus, the Boo Alarm.

At nineteen minutes before midnight, the townsfolk ran to and fro to the soft thump of feet marching, marching, marching in the distance.

Fighting off the terror coursing through his body, Mayor Hershey ran through the streets, urging the citizens to prepare their defenses for the invasion.

Mrs. Joy gathered the women of Poeville at their designated meeting place in the Town Hall. The sound of hundreds of feet filled the air. Only fifteen minutes to go before the terror struck. And strike it would.

Mr. Joy led the men of the town to roll out the wagons. They pulled them across the center of Main Street.

At ten minutes before midnight, the women climbed the stairs with buckets of hot chocolate to throw onto the monsters when they arrived.

From behind the wagons, Mr. Joy directed the men to pull catapults to face the monsters, then loaded them with large bags of stuffing.

It was five minutes before midnight when J. B. rode into town, imitating Paul Revere with his “the monsters are coming, the monsters are coming.”

The sound of marching feet was deafening. As they marched, the monsters sang, “Trick or treat, smell our feet, give us something good to eat.”

Many of the townsfolk thought it might be time to vacate the premises, urged on by the Airhead twins.

Mayor Hershey exhorted them to stand their ground. “Remember the Alamo,” they yelled.

Unfortunately there were those who wanted to know, “What the heck is an alamo?” But the encouragement was enough to keep everybody in place and ready to put up a fight against the monsters like Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett and Col. Travis did in San Antonio.

One minute till midnight, and there the marchers were, coming down the middle of Main. They were ghosts and goblins, witches and warlocks, dragons and grim reapers, zombies and vampires, werewolves and mummies. They had looks of determination on their faces.

Mayor Hershey took one look at the horde and decided there was nothing that could stop them. Not catapults, not sling shots, not hot chocolate. Nothing. Nada.

Mrs. Joy and her husband, Almond, were the first to break for it. Right behind them was Jelly Bean on his horse, followed by Gummy Bear and Chocolate Drop.

The Marshmallow Treats were the first to be captured along with Peppermint Patty and her sidekick, the Gobstopper. Next were the M & Ms. Morton and Marsha had never been fast runners.

The children in the monster costumes were not to be denied this Halloween night. It was midnight and the Candied Citizens of Poeville had lost another battle with the Mad Trick-or-Treaters of Halloweeny Town.

After the siege had ended and everything quieted down, Mayor Hershey crawled out from under his hiding place, surveyed the damage, sat down in the Mounds Bar, and thought, “Perhaps next year will be different.”

One can always hope, can’t one?

Scheherazade: A Halloween Story

This one’s for Halloween.

A dark room, small, white, no windows, only a door. A woman in her mid-thirties in the far corner, in a fetal position, crying. Footsteps, the clicking of new shoes outside. She manages to stifle her crying and cringes more into the corner.

The clicking comes closer and closer. It reaches the door. Stops.

A key slips into the lock and turns. The door opens. The light from the hallway floods the room, blinding the woman.

A man steps into the room. Lights a candle on the table. Closes the door behind him. He reaches over and pulls a chair from the table. He turns the chair with its back facing the woman and straddles it.

He doesn’t tell her not to be afraid. He doesn’t tell her to take off her clothes. Instead he leans forward, smiles and says, “Tell me a story.” There is ice in his voice. So much so his words turn the room chilly and put shivers on her skin.

She responds, her teeth chattering. “Leave me alone.”

He leans closer and raises his voice slightly. “Tell me a story, or—well, the choice is yours.” She can feel the frost on her face.

She swallows hard. “I don’t have any stories.”

An avalanche of words rolls out of his mouth. “Of course, you do. We all have stories. Stories of ancestors and parents and brothers and sisters. And the first time we had sex. Now tell me one. Just one.” The blizzard is coming for her.

She turns away from him and tries to protect her face from the freezing wind.

He rises from the chair and kneels before her, pushes back her hair, then says, “I told you I wouldn’t hurt you. Have I hurt you?” He smells of Old Spice and his breath smells like rotten meat.

“Why have you kept me here for so long?”

He reaches under her chin and turns her face to meet his. “I was waiting on the full moon. Now it’s the full moon. It’s time for a story.”

She takes a deep breath, taking in the cold air, then, “This is a story about a farm.”

He lets go of her face and smiles. “I like farms. My uncle owned a farm once. He lost it when he went bankrupt.” Then he is up and in his chair.

Trying to fight the ice, she breaths warmth on to her hands. “It was my grandparents’ farm,” she says, her voice as calm as she can make it.

“See, I told you that you had a story. And I’m liking it already.”

“It wasn’t a large farm. My grandparents had five chickens and a rooster.”

“Plenty of fresh eggs.”

“And they sold what they didn’t eat.” She sat up and leaned forward. “And they had a cow and a horse and two pigs. On top of that, Grandfather had a red tractor. Used to grow corn and fresh tomatoes and lots of potatoes.” The ice begins to melt from the warmth of her words.

“You must’ve loved visiting there.”

“I did. Every summer when I was a girl, my sister and I would go and stay. It was a lovely farm. I have such good memories,” she says, then she whispers, “Especially of my grandmother’s pies.”

He leans forward. “What did you say?”

“I have good memories of my grandmother’s pies. They were the best.”

“I love pies.”

“And so did my grandfather’s goat. He kept eating her pies. She would sit them on the windowsill to cool. And up popped that little goat head.”

“Why didn’t she get rid of the goat?”

“She wanted to, but it was my grandfather’s. He loved that goat.”

“Guess all your grandmother could do was close the windows.”

“That’s what my grandfather said. But my grandmother was having none of that. ‘Why should I have to accommodate a goat?’ she kept asking.”

“Any story with a goat in it is my kind of story.”

“One Saturday my grandmother made three pies. Two for the neighbors and one for Grandfather. She sat the pies on the windowsill and kept an eye out for the goat. Unfortunately she left the kitchen for less than five minutes. When she came back, one of the pies was gone. She knew exactly who the culprit was.

“She went to the hall closet and got out the rifle. She checked to make sure the rifle was loaded.”

“Guess it’s by-by goat,” he says, bringing his chair closer to the woman so that he can hear her soft voice.

“She ran outside and up aways, took one look at that goat, raised her rifle and fired.”

“Eating a pie was no reason to kill that poor goat. What would your grandfather do?”

“She missed but the goat didn’t. He lowered his horns, rushed passed her, accidentally knocking her off her feet. And went straight for the two pies. By the time she got to her feet, the pies were gone. And so was the goat. Grandfather rushed over. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked.

“‘Of course, I’m alright. But that fool of a goat ate my pies. Now I’m out of my secret ingredient and we won’t have pies till next month.'”

The man leans closer toward the woman, the two almost touching. His hands grab her wrists and they squeeze. “What was the secret ingredient?”

She moves so close to him that her chest is touching his chest. Then her mouth is against his ear. She whispers, “The secret ingredient is fresh human brains.”

Her teeth sink into his ear. They rip it off. She knees his groan. Then her teeth plunge into his skull, their poison freezing his body.

The room has turned hot as a summer day.

Story-making

The house, like Darnell, was all settled in for the night. Helen was in the kitchen finishing the dishes. Darnell was ready for his daily writing session. Two hours to work on the novel he’d been at for some time. The writing was going well. The monsters were gathering for the attack on the fort.

One of the dogs barked outside. Growl had a habit of doing most of the barking. The other two ignored his barks. They knew he was just showing off.

Helen brought Darnell a cup of tea. She sat it down next to his computer. Then she kissed him on the cheek. “Is it going well?”

Darnell returned from his imagination. He was a bit bothered. It was like he’d been woke from a deep sleep. He smiled, not wanting to let his emotions get the best of him. He looked up and said, “Yes. It’s going well.”

“Will you have some pages for me to read soon?”

“I think so,” he said, back in the waking world.

Growl made another bark. “That dog,” she said. “Will he ever stop?”

“When he stops,” Darnell said, “he’ll be done for.”

“Guess you’re right. Well, I’ll leave you to your story. Don’t let the monsters drag you away.”

“I won’t,” he said as she slipped away. Then he asked himself, “Just what did she mean by that?”

He began a new paragraph. The first sentence came, then a second, and soon the paragraph came to an end with the words: “The dog had stopped barking.”