As promised, here is my second pre-Halloween story, this time from Out of This World. Happy Halloween.
Things That Go Bump in the Night
R. Brian Campbell
The sun had already set by the time Leonard left his office. He stood in the doorway, searching the night for signs of danger, before stepping out onto the sidewalk. He walked swiftly, his neck pivoting back and forth, like a radar antenna, scanning the shadows for signs of danger. There was a full moon tonight, but the clouds continually passed over it, adding an eerie quality to the night. Worse yet, it was October 30th, the night before Halloween, the spookiest night of the year.
Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve. The night that the dead rose from their graves and wandered about the countryside. A night of vampires, werewolves, witches and other assorted monsters. Leonard hated Halloween and everything it stood for. Why anyone would want to celebrate all that goes bump in the night was beyond his understanding. If it was up to him, he would prefer to skip the whole thing.
As he walked, warily, along the sidewalk, he noticed the jack-o-lanterns and Halloween displays in many of the yards he passed. He scowled. What a horrid waste of money. Not to mention the waste of perfectly good pumpkins. Pumpkin wasn’t his favourite pie, but at least it was a better use of a pumpkin than carving a disgusting face in it, then jamming a candle inside, scorching the interior with soot. What were those people thinking?
What was that sound? Leonard paused, listening carefully. There! That noise there! What is it? Oh. Just dry leaves rustling in the breeze. He began walking, just a bit faster, his eyes trying to be everywhere at once.
Leonard walked as swiftly as he dared, trying not to look at the spooky decorations in the yards he passed. Ghouls, goblins, vampires, assorted monsters. They were just asking for trouble, drawing attention to themselves. What were they going to do if some creature came knocking on their door? They’ll be sorry then.
“CR-EE-EE-EE-K.” Leonard nearly jumped out of his skin as a gate opened slowly, of its own volition.
“Just the wind. Just the wind. Just the wind,” Leonard repeated to himself as he edged, carefully, around the open gate. He refused to take his eyes off the gate, even if it meant backing down the sidewalk.
Leonard froze, as a howl split the night. Another joined in, then another, and another. Just dogs, he reassured himself. But are they? Or are they wolves? Or, worse yet, werewolves? He turned his back to the gate and began to walk away.
“R-R-R-R-R-R-RAWF!” Leonard was running before his mind registered the tiny dog that had burst through the open gate. He forced himself to slow down and finally stop, leaning forward, resting his hands on his knees, as he fought for control. The little dog stood defiantly in the middle of the sidewalk, huffed once and marched back into the yard.
Leonard calmed himself and continued on his way. He was shivering, even though the night wasn’t that cold. He just wanted to be home. Somewhere in the distance he heard an owl hooting.
A black cat slinked out of a yard, right in front of him, blocking his way. The cat looked directly at him, arched its back and hissed. Leonard began backing away. The cat quickly lost interest and disappeared into the night.
He rushed onwards, nearly breaking into a run. It shouldn’t be taking this long to get home. It was almost as if the distance had increased. Something was keeping him from getting home. Something sinister. He began to run faster and faster, panic taking full control.
He must have tripped on an uneven patch in the sidewalk, because the next thing he knew, he was stumbling, waving his arms in an effort to keep his balance, before crashing down in a yard. He tumbled and rolled headlong across the dry grass and fallen leaves, until he bumped against something solid. His head was spinning and he thought his heart would burst. He looked up and stared into the red, glowing eyes of a demonic face, just inches away. He scrambled back, trying to get his feet under him.
What Leonard had bumped into was actually a creatively decorated Halloween light, but in his mind it was a demon, dragging itself out of Hell with the intention of dragging him back. He utterly lost it. “A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-!” he screamed as he fled down the street as fast as his feet would carry him.
Leonard didn’t think, he just ran. As he ran, he could feel the icy breath of a variety of ghouls and demons, right behind, just waiting for him to slow down for just a second. Well, they wouldn’t get him. He didn’t even stop when he reached his own yard. He ran up the walk, grabbed the door handle, rushed inside, and leaned back against the door, as if holding it shut from the terrors outside.
Debbie came out from another room, concern on her face. “What’s wrong, honey?”
Leonard spoke in gasps. “I…hate…this…season!”
Debbie wrapped her arms around him, holding him as he calmed down. “I know, honey. I know. You have never been a fan of Halloween.”
Leonard pulled away gently, so he could look in her eyes. “I’ve never understood this fascination with ghouls and monsters. People should leave well enough alone and let the spirits rest.”
“I know you don’t like it,” Debbie said, sympathetically, “but I still don’t understand why you make such a big deal of it.”
Leonard looked at her seriously. “I just don’t like it. It scares me.”
“Why does it scare you?”
Leonard shook his head. “It’s the thought of the dead rising, of people coming back from the grave, that frightens me.”
“Is that what scares you?” Debbie began to laugh. “Leonard, honey, how can you possibly be afraid of ghosts? You are a ghost.”