A short story to celebrate Halloween. Happy Hallow’s Eve, everyone!

Best Halloween Ever!

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Illustration: freepic.com

Ding dong!

Is that the door? I spit out a curse and pry my eyelids open. It takes more effort than it should. Then again, my head is pounding and my thoughts are as blurry as a Magic Eye picture —one of those supposed to show a prancing dolphin or a pink elephant in a tutu or something. I wouldn’t really know: those things have never worked for me.

Dinnnnnnng dong!

I imagine the finger on the doorbell. More specifically, I imagine severing it from its owner and sticking it up their nose until it pops out of their ear. Who the hell can it be at this hour? I scrunch up my face. Wait, what hour, anyway? I can’t even remember if it’s day or night. Or where I am. I let out a loud moan as my head plunks back on the pillow. Just how much did I have to drink last night, anyway?

It’s dark, so I flick on the nightstand light. Nothing. Huh. I need to change the bulb. I try the other one. The one on my wife’s side. A dim yellow light flickers on. I use it to crawl out of bed, and I groan as my feet touch the floor. It’s cold. Real cold. Like the house has moved to the Arctic. I almost expect a scarf-wearing penguin to amble into the room on ice skates. Damn. I’ll have to check the thermostat, too.

I yawn, and the stench of my breath, well, takes my breath away. Literally. I stop breathing in that foul reek the moment it hits my nostrils. Smells like a homeless skunk has crawled into my mouth and died. Of halitosis.

I snap my mouth shut and aim for the door. My legs almost give way so I hang on to the wall like it’s a lifejacket. The dizziness passes after a moment and my legs feel stronger. I carefully let go of the wall, patting the plaster like an old friend. Well, it did support me in my hour of need. Which is more than I can say for most of my friends.

My fingers stumble on the light switch and a bright light blinds me momentarily. As soon as my vision clears up, I make my way down the stairs.

Outside, I hear children’s laughter. “Trick or treat!”

By the time I reach the door and open it, there’s no one there. I catch a glimpse of a small group of stubby superheroes escorting a little girl who is wearing a sheet tied into a pointy end. She looks like a pointy tampon. Unless she’s supposed to be a ghost. It’s hard to tell when your head is spinning and you have trouble convincing your body that humans walk on two legs nowadays.

Glowing jack-o’-lanterns are everywhere. Orange-hued light stabs my eyes. As I close the door behind me, the handle squeals, as if in pain. I give it a sympathetic nod and rub my aching eyelids. I feel your pain. I really do. I head into the kitchen. I do a double-take as I pass the living room. Every single piece of furniture is covered in white sheets. What the hell?

I remove a sheet off the couch and stare at it in confusion. When did that happen? Images of Rip Van Winkle cross my mind. I touch my chin, but there’s nothing there, save the usual five o’clock shadow. I frown as I absent-mindedly run my fingers across the couch’s arm.

Scratching my head, I head back to the stairs. I’ve barely made a grudging step up, when I hear the rattling of keys outside. Crap. If Sarah sees me like this, I’ll never hear the end of it. It’s not that we don’t love each other. Ah, who am I kidding? Me and the wife, we hate each other. Have for ages. If there’s a good memory of us together somewhere in my head, the skunk must have pissed all over it and dug it deep into the ground just before it died, because I sure can’t find it.

The door creaks open and a hunched silhouette stumbles in. I briefly consider jumping off the stairs and dashing into the kitchen, but my legs just hang there. With a shrug, I prepare to face the inevitable verbal lashing. Nothing I haven’t heard a thousand times before.

The figure closes the door, which clanks into its lock. As he turns around, I let out a relieved sigh. It’s just my best friend. “Matt! Buddy!” The words come out slurred. More like a moan, really. Maybe the wife is right. I should cut down on the booze.

The man at the door gapes at me. His jaw slackens, like in the cartoons. I imagine it hitting the floor and I chuckle. It must sound maniacal, because his eyes almost pop out of their sockets. I take a step down and raise my arms into a bear hug. “It’s me, you silly sod. What are you scared of?” The last bit came out like a really protracted moan. Perhaps it’s not so weird he’s so freaked out, after all. I must look like hell.

Before I can reach him, he lets out a shrill yelp and bolts into the living room. I follow him as fast as my shuffling legs will allow. “Hey, it’s just me.”

I find him in the corner, hiding. His face is almost as white as the sheet covering the recliner in front of him. I pause next to the entrance. “What’s the matter, buddy?”

“It can’t be,” he hisses. “I… We killed you!”

My brows furrow. “What?” Rusty gears groan in my head as they start to turn.

He points at my chest. I can hear his teeth chattering even from where I stand.

I notice a small hole in my shirt, right above my heart, and push a finger inside. It tickles my ribcage and almost exits from the back. Now, that can’t be right.

The gears in my head are now spinning at full speed. A blinding flash of memories explodes in my mind. Me, in my bed. Sleeping. Someone sneaking into the room. A deafening bang. A burst of light. The acrid smell of gunpowder. Blood flowing out of my body. Life oozing out of the hole in my chest. The hole I’ve currently got my finger in.

I tickle my ribcage once more. It’s a funny sensation. Like playing the piano from the inside. “But why?”

“It was Sarah’s idea, I swear!” he screams. His fingers are wrapped so tightly around the recliner’s armrest that it looks like they’ll rip it out any moment now. “She made me do it.”

Sarah? My Sarah? Well, that sure gives the whole ‘till death do us part’ a new twist. I knew she hated me, but to have me killed? That sounds dark even for her. I finally remove my finger from my chest and stare at it. I half-expect to see blood, but there is none. Just a boney finger. Perhaps I should just ask her. “Where is she now?”

“Ho… Home,” he stammers.

Whose home? Their home? As in… Matt and Sarah’s home? Well, that explains a lot. I scrunch up my face. My best friend. And my wife. It would be funny, if it weren’t such a cliché. I give him a disappointed look. Judging by his trembling lower lip, it probably came across as a furious glare instead. “But why did you have to kill me?”

“She said you’d never let her go.”

“Sure I would. I’d be happy for you to have her. You two deserve each other.” I am hoping the slurring in my voice won’t hide the sarcasm. His dripping forehead shows me it probably has. I let out a sigh. “It was the prenup, wasn’t it? This way, she keeps it all.”

He avoids my questioning gaze, but not before I catch the guilt in his eyes. So, he knew. He’s just as bad as her. My fists clench in sudden anger. “Tell her to come here.”

“No!”

I make a move towards him. He scurries away from me on his bum, until he bumps into the wall.

“Tell her to get here!” I make my voice as menacing as I can. “And I may let you live.”

Our gazes lock for a long moment, then I make another move towards him and he nods so fast, I think his head will fall off. He fishes his cell out of his pocket and hits the screen repeatedly with a quivering finger. I tap an impatient foot on the floor. After half a dozen attempts, he manages to dial her.

“Honey?” His voice trembles. I take a step back to help him steady it. He looks at me and I force a smile on my face. What little blood is left on his face rushes to the safety of the rest of his body. I hurry to close my mouth shut again. I probably look like Gollum. Best if I go for a serious look. I wrap my arms around me, hoping to look solemn.

“Honey, there’s been a complication. Can you come here?” There is a pause. “Yes, I know what time it is. But you must.” Another pause. His forehead is sweating bullets now. “Just get here,” he barks.

I head to the drinking cabinet and yank away the sheet covering it. My eyes light up. At least they left my Scotch. I pour two glasses. Neat, just the way we used to drink it.

“Okay, see you in a minute.” He stabs the screen and it goes dark. “She won’t be long. We live right next door.” His voice trails off, as he realizes what he just said.

I click my tongue in disapproval and extend my arm, my hand holding his glass. It takes forever for him to work up the courage to approach. When he does, he grabs the glass and takes two steps back. His fingers shake so badly, half the Scotch is wasted on the carpet. He inhales the rest.

I wanted to raise a deeply sarcastic toast, you jerk! Thanks for ruining my moment. “Wait, I—”

That idiot drinks the Scotch so fast, he chokes. Whisky flies out of his nose and mouth. I eye him with curiosity, half expecting booze to come out of his ears, then I spring into action. Well, spring might be too hasty a word. I inch my way towards him as fast as I can, but he runs away from me. Moving with the grace and speed of a drunken snail on Prozac, I try to catch him.

Still coughing his lungs out and wheezing like an old steamboat with asthma, he stumbles out of the room. By the time I reach him, he’s lying before the front door, no longer moving. His face is all blue. His lips purple. Oh, crap.

I run my hand through my hair and accidentally tear off a small clump. What the…? I catch a glimpse of my face in the corridor mirror. No wonder Matt freaked out. I look like something out of a horror movie. A constipated zombie with insomnia, perhaps. Undeath hasn’t been kind to me.

Just then, I hear keys at the door. It squeaks open and Sarah enters, her gaze and fingers lost in her purse. “Matt? I’m here.” She sounds annoyed. “What—”

She stumbles on his body and lets out a muffled scream. “Matt!” She drops on all fours, then notices me hovering in the background. The second scream is much louder. It pierces my ears. I flinch involuntarily. “You… What did you do?”

I tilt my head in question. I expected that to be my line. Great. Thanks to that idiot, I’m the bad guy now. The injustice of it all hits me like a freight train loaded with lead anvils. “Me? How about the fact that you killed me!” As I utter these last words, I vigorously point my finger at her to illustrate my point.

Whatever has brought me back from the dead, must be fading, for my entire hand detaches from the wrist with a chilling crunch. It flies towards her and slaps her in the face. She lets out a high-pitched shriek. I’m mildly offended by the way she tosses it to the ground as she jumps backwards. Hey, that’s not a spider, you know.

Her foot catches on Matt’s armpit. “Watch it!” I shout and offer my remaining hand, but it’s too late. She staggers backwards and bumps against the small table next to the door. The vase where we put our decorative glass marbles hits the floor, sending little green and blue orbs to run free all over. Her stiletto shoes step on an aquamarine marble. She flails her arms wildly as she crashes on the floor, like one of those cartoon characters. Only, this cartoon is made of flesh and blood. Before I can blink, said blood is gushing out of her cracked skull. It pools under her head as she lets out a small sigh. Her eyes fix on the ceiling, unseeing.

“Sarah?” I pick up my hand from the floor and try to reconnect it to my arm. When that fails, I wave it in front of her face. Nothing. The crimson stain under her head grows larger. The air smells of iron and something darker. It turns my stomach, and I stumble to the door.

When I tear it open, I almost crash against the giant tampon I’d seen earlier and two tiny supermen—one a good head shorter than the other. Children’s eyes pop open.

“Wow, check out his costume,” undersized superman says, his eyes as big as Buick headlights.

From afar, the wind carries the sound of the clock in the town square chiming midnight. A sudden gust of wind passes through me, as my body flickers in and out of existence.

“That is so cool!” tall superman says and pokes me. His finger passes right through me. He pulls back his finger with a gasp.

Stubby superman gapes at me. “Are you all right, mister?” Without waiting for an answer, he darts through the open door and into the house. I try to stop him, but he passes right through me. With every strike of the clock, whatever brought me here loses its grip on me. “There’s two bodies here,” short superman screams. I swear, I can taste his excitement.

The tampon shrieks in delight and clasps her mouth. Her shrill voice is the last thing I hear before the clock strikes midnight and I disappear back to wherever I came from. “Best! Halloween! Ever!”

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