Ultimate Halloween

Halloween had always held a special place in Beto’s heart. In his mind, he’d always idealized and fantasized extensively about the many things that could happen during such a magically charged night. Both he and his best friend an front door neighbor Tato love Halloween so much that they had made stunts and pranks an art form as soon as they had been allowed to go out Trick or Treating on their own.

This year’s was likely going to be the last Halloween they spent together; Beto was four years older than Tato, though still not officially an adult, and he was waiting to hear back about his college applications. If all went well, by this time the following year he’d be off to study abroad. Therefore, it was imperative that they make the most out of this one. They were going to pull all the stops, spare no one, the works!

They had spent two days scouring the neighborhood for dog turds, scooping them up with a little plastic shovel and depositing them in brown paper bags. This was a classic staple, a stalwart of Halloween pranks. They couldn’t, of course, forget about it no matter how basic it was.

They had also made liberal use of one Anarchist’s Cookbook, which had some very interesting home recipes for explosives – nothing too damaging, they decided, as they didn’t want to be terrorists about it, just vandals – and were geared up for a truly memorable night of stunts and wreaking havoc.

It was already 4pm and the day was growing unusually dark even for that time of the year. By the looks of it, twilight would be taking place well before 6pm and dusk would have its reign early.

Beto sat on the front walkway of his family’s house, right below the weeping willow of the front yard, which branches just managed to reach and hang above him. He smelled something in the air that kept making the hair on his nape prickle. There was a message in the wind, a whisper, a rumor, and he didn’t quite know what it was, but it was exhilarating.

It was a promise pregnant with the notion of adventure, of danger. It was like a dream where one is both hunter and prey, where the thrill of the chase is experienced from both vantage points. Complete.

Tato arrived with gear in tow: meters of rope, a bag of practical tools and goodies, and an extra change of clothes. They would need to change twice, at least, if they were going to pull the night off.

They talked about the plan; where they would go and how they would proceed, just running it back for review, to make sure they were on the same page. They were synchronized like pros. It would be a cinch.

Their scheming was interrupted by a veritable eruption of sound caused by a colony of bats so voluminous it blackened the twilit western sky. The contrast of winged things  rendered solid black by their contrast against the fiery background of the setting sun over the mountains painted a picture that pulled hard on the strings of both their hearts. It spoke to them of what was coming in as ominous a tone as any portent ever could.

They stared at the large flock for a few moments until they heard the distant wail of several sirens fast approaching. Their instincts were flaring alarms of their own, and the hairs on their arms felt like they were standing on end. This is going to be crazy, Tato said. Beto agreed with apocalyptic glee. Indeed, it would be!

Tato ran inside Beto’s to get the home-made  explosives and a wooden baseball bat. Beto remained outside, watching dusk fall with gusto and anticipation. Tato returned a few minutes later and they set out on the path of mischief.

They had but traveled two neighborhood blocks when they came upon the first disturbance. It appeared that the undead had risen, wherefrom they could not say, but there was only one thing to do about it: swing away and be generous with the gasoline and fire.

They had always wished for a night like this and so relished the wanton violence and chaos like babes suckling at the mother’s teat. All manner of foul beings and spooks to bandy blows with and feel alive, all sorts of myth to set alight, they both thought as they waded through the useless crowd that fled. They may yet have been children for all intents and purposes, but they knew how to bleed like men. Before the night was through they would both meet a most gruesome end, but what a glorious end at that!

Advertisements

Work is Work

 

 

“…that the souls of men are demons, and that men become Lares if they are good, Lemures or Larvae if they are bad, and Manes if it is uncertain whether they deserve well or ill… ”

— City of God, Book IX, Chapter 11, Apuleius

 

 

 

 

Serge had spent enough time down in the gutter to know that his number was up. There were no two ways about it; he was gonna bite it and it was going to be awful.

 

 

He’d been assigned a case by the Myskatonic University’s External Survey division. Something about a Lapis Manalis – a gateway to the underworld, so to speak – popping up in a small town just outside of Springfield. He now recalled wondering if there would be an Evergreen Terrace there – unlikely – and chuckling at the thought. The morning had been just peachy; a promising bout of boring with an extra helping of kill yourself tonight, maybe. Oh, how wrong he had been about that particular forecast.

 

 

Fast forward thirteen hours and a few too many wrong turns of conversation and you had Serge in chains, naked, gagged, dehydrated and with a burning case of hemorrhoids the likes of which he’d not experienced since that one time he’d eaten too much Lebanese food. Oh, and the locals just happened to be the hybrid offspring of a chthonic deity bent on world domination through – get this – love. Yeah. That’s right. The ol’ L word baddie. The reason great empires were built and torn down.

 

Serge wasn’t a fan, and much less now that it was the very reason he was there about to meet an untimely death. There was, after all, only so much a man could take of the dreaded chemical on its own. Couple it with actual threats to his physical well-being and, well, you got one dogged aversion to romantic notions.

 

 

Of course, as much as he hated to admit it even to himself, Serge had fallen prey to a woman. Yes, he had swallowed the whole thing, hook and sinker. That very lady was the person responsible for his current predicament.  Oh, he was a fool and he knew it.

 

 

Speak of the devil! There she was, sharp knives and all, and Serge still found her charming. He really did deserve to get offed. He had sold out the world for a sweet smile and the promise of little tender love and care.

 

Here comes the blade! Yup, there it is, on his neck, right on… the slash came, as expected, and he felt his lifeblood deluge out through his neck. Samantha, she’d said her name was. If that could be believed. It took seconds and the noise he made was embarrassing, but it’s not like you get to practice dying, now, is it?

 

A minute later he was a disembodied something, looking at what was the most pathetic thing he had ever seen: his dead, unflatteringly underkept corpse. He had not been kind to himself in life, that was evident.

 

He felt a strange pull, something beckoned him…

 

Ah, there it was, the chthonic deity itself. It was a dark, oddly female shape. Voluptuous, full, and every bit the opposite of what most would consider sexually attractive… and yet she stirred feelings in Serge he didn’t even understand how they could happen without, you know, having an actual body any longer.

 

You are not worthy. Spoke the strange deity. But you are not devoid of value, either.

 

Oh, shit. He was being judged. Weighed. He had the terrible notion that he would not pass muster. As usual. Why should things change just because he was dead?

 

You will remain and help. You will remain and either redeem your soul’s worth, or damn it beyond redemption.

 

This was a far better outlook than Serge had expected. However, he still felt a strange sense of foreboding. Something heavy was just placed upon him.

 

You will remain.

The Last Dance

One more. Just one more. C’mon, old man, you can do it. Just. One. More.

 

His wounds were bad. Real bad. Locke wasn’t going to make it, he knew, but that was fine. That was just fine, as long as he could do this one last hunt. Just one fix, right? Like an addict. This was different, however. This was his last fix, the last one, the ultimate goal… His nemesis was somewhere in the small town and Locke could feel it. He had been hunting him for so long. The vampire that had taken it all away from him one night so far away it may as well have happened to someone else.

 

The crossbow bolt fired from his right hand, it traveled true and found its mark. Another vermin down, pitted to the wooden house’s wall by the bolt through its head. Locke loaded the crossbow again, deftly with his left hand locking the mechanism while still holding a short blade.

 

One more. Almost there. One. More.

 

Another with the bolt striking true and through. Out of bolts. No matter. His right hand went to his left hip and produced and dagger. Time to get even bloodier. His stomach was bleeding, as were his arms, profusely, from the tattered and torn remains of his tanned leather jacket.

 

The chapel, there… There is where he would be, his nemesis. Locke made his way, beginning to limp. His vision was becoming a bit hazy and his head swam. It didn’t matter. Nothing did. He would avenge his son.

 

One. More. Hunt.

 

He kicked down the flimsy doors of the chapel and stormed in. The vermin huddled in the pews and around the altar where his nemesis awaited. They were cowering. They understood that their end was near, and Locke obliged them dutifully.

 

There must have been over thirty of them, until finally he caught up with the greatest vermin of all. He looked the once-man in the eyes, full of tears of rage he, full of fear and doom the vermin. Then he cut its head off.

 

He walked off a few feet and succumbed to blood loss, losing consciousness.

 

He dreamt of his son’s face, beaming, so young and full of life. He dreamt of the sun becoming dark and bleeding, and his son told him that he, Locke, had done that. You did it, father. It was you.

 

He jerked away and saw the bodies all around him. They looked… normal. They looked human. Dawning realization suffused him as he struggled to stand up. His blood was still fresh, and the bleeding hadn’t really stopped. He saw the priest’s body, head lopped off, blood spatter staining the pulpit. He looked off to the left and saw the priest’s head.

 

As darkness encroached on Locke’s vision and he began to fade from this mortal coil, he could only feel a strange sense of regret eat its way out of the elation he had felt before. What had he become?

Patches

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” – Linus van Pelt, Peanuts

Tending a pumpkin patch during the autumn months wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Well, Murray thought, there wasn’t much to crack at when you got down to brass tacks. He made the best of it by arranging the plumper fruit in ways that might give the local kids a fun time to play around as they often did in the days leading up to Halloween. It was his favorite holiday of the year, hands down. Christmas was fine, but he wasn’t all that fond of the snow, and there really was something dishonest about how much it had been changed and pilfered from its mishmash of pagan folklore origins. Halloween was still close enough to its dark, raw source. The ugly side of things celebrated even by the children, as it was in the olden days.

Murray had spent his life, since coming to the North American continent and settling in the upper Midwest, as a groundskeeper for the Blackwell Estate. The estate was a sprawling property with plenty of patches of different crops dealing mainly with varieties of squash, as well as watermelons (in one of the green houses), and they all had the same general purpose: just to be there and grow.

Murray understood the reasons behind that; they all dated back to the old country, to European folklore and legend. Whether any of that would fly out here where other myths and legends abound. Through the murk of the ages Murray had lived, he still managed to keep a clear vision of what his role was. So, he waited and tended to the vegetable and fruit vessels of the ancient overlords.

It had been so long since he’d seen a proper, full-fledged vampire watermelon…

Murray was putting down mulch around the pumpkins, making sure there wasn’t any rot or the like since these were humid months, after all, when he heard the rustling. At first, he thought it might be local kids rummaging and running amok through the patch, but a careful minute spent in observation proved that to be an erroneous conclusion.

The rustling came from the squash patch, he deduced, and so made his way there slowly, carefully. He made it to the patch and found that there was a clearing where a very large squash must have been. In the little clearing, he found a baby-blue blanket – the kind a child might use as what is colloquially referred to as a security blanket – and a pair of children’s shoes. He wondered at that, trying to puzzle out what it meant, when he heard the peals of a small child’s laughter ring through the air.

He looked toward the horizon and its fire red and indigo blue hues and he saw… what? It couldn’t be, could it? It was. It was the biggest squash he had ever seen, easily a meter in diameter half again as long judging from its size relative to the diminutive child with a red shirt who rode it as it flew around in the air.

Well, I’ll be damned, Murray spoke aloud to himself. I guess they really are back!

Self Awareness

Lin and Stacey had been together since Lin could recall. In fact, she really had a hard time trying to remember any time in her life when she wasn’t with Stacey! They had grown up together, gone to high school together, even made it through college together. Best fucking friends forever. Damn straight!

Things had gotten a little weird lately, however. Stacey wasn’t doing as much with her, she felt, even though they were together literally all the time. They had decided to move into the apartment together and it had all been fine until Stacey met Tom, India, and Mark. Once they came into the picture, it felt like everything had changed for Lin; no more long talks in the middle of the night while lying in bed looking up at the ceiling or out at the night sky. No more quiet mornings sipping coffee while doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. No more solitary strolls down at the park. It was all them and Lin had no choice but to tag along every time if she wanted to have time with Stacey. It was odd, now that she thought about it, that she seemed compelled to go along as if she was physically unable to refuse.

There they were, finally alone, just Stacey and her. Lin kept trying to start up a conversation, but Stacey just seemed so preoccupied with stuff that it was as if Lin wasn’t even there. It was infuriating! The relationship had become so unilateral it was almost abusive.

Lin had just about enough of it. She was confronting Stacey once and for all, and if things went South, well, fine. Lin would learn to live without her. Anything was better than being stuck in that limbo of uncertainty, apathy and disregard.

Lin was looking at Stacey draw up a design for a new line of clothes and suddenly she noticed that the design was very similar to one Lin had just imagined earlier that day. No. Wait a minute. It was exactly the same design! What the hell!

Lin was about to shout at Stacey when she noticed another strange thing: Stacey’s left hand, it had a scar. Not just any scar, but the same one Lin had on her left hand from when they were kids and she had cut herself with a carving knife. She had needed stitches and the scar became a gnarly, keloid thing. Lin felt dizzy and a little nauseous. She looked down at her own left hand and… there was just empty space. Where her body should have been, there was nothing but air.

Lin really was going to puke… Stacey stopped sketching on her paper pad and threw up onto the floor in a violent retching motion. Lin looked on incredulously, dumbstruck. What was happening? Stacey put one hand on her forehead, her eyes shut tight to the point of wrinkling her lids, and then looked up at Lin. Scratch that; she looked up at where Lin would have been, but it was as though Stacey was seeing through her. Her eyes looked at the same space where she was, but seemed not to focus on Lin at all.

Lin was trying to wrap her head around the situation, whatever it was. She wasn’t having much success. She dared not try to look at her own body again for fear that she wouldn’t see it there, again. It had to be some strange illusion. She was dreaming, she thought, she had to be.

Stacey returned with a mop and some paper towels. Lin was going to offer to help, but Stacey passed by her… or was it through her. She moved toward the front door, meaning to go out and take a walk. She needed fresh air. This was simply too surreal. She looked at the little wooden table where they would put their keys and the mail and looked down at an envelope. It was from her mother. Why hadn’t she seen this earlier? Why hadn’t Stacey told her about it?

She did a double take on the addressee name: Stacey Lin Parker.

It all came rushing in on her at once. She was Stacey, but also Lin. Rather, Lin was a part of Stacey, or had been until… Until what? That part wasn’t clear. All her memories were, in reality, Stacey’s, weren’t they? So, who was Lin, then? Why did she think of herself as a person when… Oh God. Oh God, no! She understood, now. How could she come to be? Why? She wasn’t a ghost; she was – oh God!

Hush

Thiago had been hanging around the wrong kind of people for a while now, but these were another kind of wrong all together. A darker kind of wrong. There was something about the way they did things, the way they spoke, that belied something far more sinister and dangerous than drug dealing and gang banging.

Then there were the hints at darker dealings with the odd gypsy types. They weren’t really gypsies, not like they were shown on the television or the movies, but there was something that reminded Thiago of them. Romani, he’d hear one of the older members of the Clavos say. Romani of the outer circles, was what they had said. Whatever they were, whomever they were, they scared the shit out of him.

He had always been a tough kid, or rather, had been considered one. He wasn’t sure about being tough. He was scared most of the time. Scared of his parents, of his dad, mostly. Always beating up his mom and his brothers, and him now and then if he managed to get a hold on him. The kids at school. He really didn’t want to go back to either place, but he braved it every time. At home, he would stand up to his dad, punch back before getting knocked out. At school, it was easier. If he could stand up to a grown-up, he could take on any of the other shits like him. So, he did.

He wasn’t sure about being tough, but he understood fear and fighting against it. He understood that he was brave. But the fear the older members of the Clavos and the Romani they dealt with, well, they scared him to the bone.

And yet, here he was, in the caravan of one of these Romani. He had been brought in by one of the younger ones, a teenage girl that must have been about 16 but he wasn’t really sure. Thiago wasn’t very good at judging anyone’s age. They had taken him in and told him they had work for him, if he was interested, so here he was.

The man who was in the caravan, he looked strange. There was something about him that wasn’t entirely right. He had seen a documentary once about 3D animation and how hard it was to simulate human-like features and movement, facial expressions, and how there was this thing called the Uncanny Valley, the feeling of something alien, of strangeness when someone saw something so close to human yet just a few inches away from being the real thing… That was what Thiago thought of when he saw the fat, wrinkly man behind the big wooden desk in the caravan. There were lamps, the old kind, that used oil and rope. It was so weird.

Kid, you wanna earn money? The sales pitch wasn’t much, Thiago knew, but it was a given that he needed money, so it was a mere formality. You could get yourself a little something by doing us a favor, eh? The fact that the man was almost cartoonish didn’t help the feeling of otherworldliness Thiago was being creeped out by.

Sure. He had said it with a slight tremor, trying to effect nonchalance that was nowhere in the general vicinity relative to him. Not even in the same country.

Two hours later he was in a little storage garage, one of those places you rent to put shit in and never see again because humans are pack rats and hoarders, like his grandma. He was there with a little scrap of paper with some weird words in some language he didn’t understand. He was supposed to say that while trying to imagine some very specific images. They had made him practice for a long while.

He began once he had managed to calm his nervousness at being in a darkened storage room, alone with nothing but a candle, despite all he had experienced so far in his young yet fucked up life.

Nothing.

He tried again, saying the words, thinking the thoughts…

Nothing.

He did it again. Again. Again. Again.

Nothing.

How many times had he tried? Wouldn’t his mother worry? No, not really. Who was he kidding? His mother had enough to worry about with dodging his father’s drunken punches and romantic advances. Little Thiago may as well be a drop of water in the ocean. Lost as soon as you couldn’t see him.

He dropped down on his ass, sitting dejected, the scrap of paper cast aside. He was in absolute darkness but for the candle which would only last that much longer…

Minutes passed and he couldn’t help but repeat the words from the paper. He knew them by heart, now. He had been lost in the repetition thereof when he noticed something had changed in the atmosphere of the storage room. He was not alone.

SSSSSSSSssssssSSSSSSS

He heard a faint sibilance, the intimation of presence and menace.

sssssSSSSSSSSsssssSSSSSSS

Oh shit, he thought. There was something there with him.

sssWe hearssssssssWe comessssssssssssssssWhat does it offersssssssfor our presenssssssssssssssssssssssss

No Fury Like

“If light be the brightest light, wherefore doth it shadows cast?

  • Theater of Tragedy’s Velvet Darkness They Fear

It was a sandy hell, this stretch of desert that seemed to, well, stretch forever. She walked in the cold of the night though she did not feel it. Not that cold, in any case.

She had been dead a long time, or rather undead. It had been centuries since… Since her once-master had slid into her chambers, uninvited, stealthy as a shadow, and given her the dark gift whether she would have wanted it or not.

There was much to be said about the impetuous audacity of the creature that had basically raped her into unlife, the modern romantic novel bedamned. All of it was rubbish. The notion of a male forcibly subduing a woman, objectified to such a degree, spoke so unkindly of her own kind – well, was she still female despite her state of undeath? – that Mina would have vomited had it been possible to do so for her.

Sand hell. Ha! It was, though, was it not? All of Earth was hell. She knew this, now, better than anyone else alive or unalive, she would wager. It was hell, and somehow, she was only capable of feeling the kind of anger that she could only describe as… petulant! She, hundreds of years old, petulant. And yet, that was what she felt. Petulant anger, like some irrational child.

She trudged on, treading sand that shifted under her porcelain white feet. She may as well be porcelain for all that she had been able to feel physically in the past hundred years. Sensation was a thing so far away in some stratospheric layer of the map of her senses – what an unapt word! Sensation. Senses.

There it was, the grand ruse, the great and secret trick, the prestige. God was dead. Not in a metaphorical or allegorical sense. No. God. Was. Dead. The Earth – the Earth! – was Her tomb, Her grave. And God had been female! Of course! It had to be so!

For decades her once-master and she had searched, nay, scoured the planet for hints, for any puzzle or indication that would lead to finding God. It was, after all, some strange divine punishment, her once-master’s condition and, by proxy, hers. This was too much, she thought. Too rich by a mile!

She couldn’t help but laugh heartily, a laughter that peeled like bell, from deep in her chest. She did so as she recalled her once-master’s face, the expression on it, of disbelief, of sexist pride crumbling away in offended shock. And all this time he had thought himself cursed by some male deity, when all he really was, was the product of strange chemical processes as yet not comprehended by science. How had she fooled herself into following him for so long?

In any case, she had taken only a few minutes to digest it all, while her useless once-master wallowed in his ridiculous wounded pride. How typically male.

Said wallowing allowed her to investigate further into the ruins of what had, at some point, housed divine flesh – divine flesh, if you can imagine that! How must such flesh look? How must it feel? She perused the stone tablets and the carved walls of the tomb of a being that had ostensibly birthed the universe, yet was somehow not as large as one would imagine, given the dimensions of the cosmos. It made sense, however. The big bang. And to borrow a rather vulgar colloquial term, had she actually, well, banged. There was no indication of it, or an absentee father – again, how typically male – that would have provided the little tiny spermatozoa for the majestic ova. No, the universe had been somehow born a diminutive super-condensed, super heavy, ultra-massive ball of matter and energy. Once out of the divine womb, it had expanded, and it was thought that it continues to do so.

What had set Mina off, what had made her finally throw off the shackles of her own tacit slavery, was that apparently Men had killed God. Yes, Men. Not mankind, though women did nothing and were therefore, in part, responsible by allowing it. Meeeeeeeen.

It took Mina all of two minutes to go down a path of reasoning so lethal her once-master had found himself impaled on a stone obelisk by the time she had reached its logical end. Fitting, Mina had thought afterward, while admiring his limp body transfixed by ancient stone. A phallus serving as the death of one that epitomized the worst in Man.

Mina’s conclusion: Men had killed their mother, God, and had made one huge mess of things. Well, she didn’t know how to fix it, or even if she could. It did put the universe under a light that made more sense, Her being dead. All the chaos, all the disarray, all the needless destruction… No woman would allow that. Right.

Well, she thought, now that I’m the oldest of the undead, I’ll make sure things go differently. The universe was turning to shit, but she would make it smell less shitty in the interim, that was for certain.