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Coming of Age Contemporary Urban Fantasy

Halloween Story

            October thirty-first arrived n the Landry household with great anticipation.  At least the smallest Landry, Larry, was excited for the holiday.  At eleven years young, he had experienced trick or treat in past years with one parent close behind him as he marched up door steps in a kangaroo or clown costume and bravely announced “trick or treat.”  The neighbors would bestow treats upon young Larry while waving at his parent staying discreetly on the sidewalk.  Larry now thought, that was trick or treating for a baby.  This year would be different.  Larry had been promised that this year he could venture out on Hallows Eve with his older brother and his pals.  He could do the real trick or treating! 

The anticipated day arrived.  That day was cool and cloudless.  The walk home from school was one of those pleasurable days revealing that at last the hot summer was gone and fall had arrived.  He heard the tinny ring of rake tines as the gardeners were clearing the summer’s growth.  He could smell the piles of leaves ignited to clean yards and spread life-giving leaf ash on the yards.  Larry could hardly wait for the evening.  Arriving home, he carefully assembled his costume.  He would be a hobo whose pack hung on a stick that would double as his trick or treat cache.  His mother made Larry and his older brother, Dale, sit down to eat a quick supper, but neither was at this moment hungry or interested in meatloaf and beans though it was usually one of their favorites.  They quickly cleared the table and headed to their room to assemble their costumes.

Dale became a motorcycle gang member with the added touch of a skeletonized face and a fake bony hand.  Larry thought that his hobo ensemble would look authentic as soon as he applied the facial make-up including beard stubble and licorice tooth covering.  This all went well until they presented themselves to their mother.  Larry—you are not going out with all that make-up on your face.  The outfit is okay, but you can’t paint your face.  Larry responded, “but what about Dale.  He’s painting his face and wearing a mask as well.”

Mom always had an answer.  “Thirteen is not the same as eleven.  If you want to go out with Dale and his friends, just forget the make-up.”

Larry responded, “but I won’t look like a real hobo with a clean face.”  I suspect that by the time you get very far along with your trick or treat that you will have a face dirty enough it won’t make much difference.  Larry knew he had once again been outfoxed by his mother.

The brothers met Dales friends two blocks from the house.  The sun was just setting and the sky had clouded over.  The air was cool, bordering on chilly.  Only a slight glimpse of the moon was occasionally visible.  Larry was glad that mom made Dale carry the bulky but high-powered flash light with him.  Larry began to have doubts about accompanying the older boys.  He felt what his dad called goose flesh on the back of his neck and arms.  The older boys ran from house to house throughout the neighborhood.  Larry tried to keep up, but was always lagging behind.  Dale made no comment, but his two buddies obviously thought that Larry was an unneeded burden and didn’t hesitate to say so.  They had soon covered the neighborhood and felt that the next street would be a good trick or treating area.  Larry didn’t like the idea.  His mom didn’t feel that neighborhood was always safe, but the gang was all for it and Larry tagged along.  As they went from house to house it became evident that even the older boys lacked some of the bravado they had demonstrated earlier.  A cautious bell ring and a rather feeble call of Trick or Treat did produce some candy, but not as much as anticipated.  

They were beginning to tire when they passed the old Whicker House.  The cottage may have been quaint at one time but was now in a state of total neglect.  Dale knew that it had been abandoned for years.  What grass that was left was overgrown.  The roof was missing shingles and several window panes were absent.  But Dale saw that something was different.   There was a faint light seen in a window and a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney.  On the front stoop there was a Jack-o-lantern.  It was an odd-looking ornament with a gloomy, almost ominous looking face.  Instead of an electric light source, there was a candle lighting up the gourd.  

The older boy looked at Larry.  “I dare ya’ to trick or treat that house.  I say you’re a baby if you won’t go.”

Dale responded, “Larry, don’t let him bully you.  I don’t want you to go to that house.”

Larry didn’t feel brave enough to walk up to the house, but a dare had been made and he was determined not to be The Baby.  He hiked up his pants, put a smile on his face that he really didn’t feel.  He headed up the walk.

Reaching the house, he climbed the steps up to the porch.  The remaining planks creaked as though they were close to breaking, but managed his weight.  He knocked on the door.  Waited one, then two minutes, and feeling confident that no one would answer, he knocked again.  A slight grin came on his face and he turned around to give the gang a wave of triumph.

He didn’t see them.  They weren’t there.  Just then the door opened.

“Larry—I’ve been waiting for you.”

The being before his eye was the oldest and thinnest person Larry had ever seen.  The skin was pale, almost ashen.  The hands were so thin that Larry thought he would hear the joints flex as his wrist was grabbed and he was guided into the room.  He wanted to run!  To knock the old man (or woman) away and run to the street and back home as fast as he could.  But his legs wouldn’t move.   As he was guided into the room, he saw a small fireplace that was causing a hazy pine scented smoke to swirl around the room.  A paper lay on a side table and it was a familiar Winston-Salem Journal. The odd thing was the date—Nov. 1, 2023.

The figure addressed Larry directly.  “Do you want a trick or treat?  You do, don’t you?  I’m going to do you one better.  I’ll trick and treat you if you can prove yourself worthy.”

“First, look at the paper.  You read the paper, don’t you?  I’ll bet that you at least read the funnies.”

Larry picked up the paper and opened to the headlines on the front page.  “Local Youth’s Mangled Body Found on Halloween Night.”  He only read the first paragraph which identified the victim as Larry Landry.  Larry’s vision began to tunnel.  He felt light-headed and was sure he was fainting when he heard a loud pop.  A pine knot had apparently ignited in the fireplace and caused a moment of red glow in the room that momentarily illuminated the figure.  He could have sworn that the pale skin now had a red tint and the eyes glowed a scarlet color.

“I imagine you have some questions.  Who am I?  Indeed, what am I?  I’ll answer your question if you can earn an answer.  The figure pulled a glass jar from the mantel and used the bony fingers to unscrew the lid.  The scent of vinegar and dill and another strange pungent odor filled the room.  You must eat one.  Larry reached over to the jar and pulled a pickle from the jar.  He thought he had picked the smallest one, but soon realized there were no small ones.

“Ya’ can do it.  I know you can.”  Larry took a small-tiny bite of the pickle.  It was the hottest strongest vilest thing he had ever put in his mouth.  He managed not to spit it out, and strangely, as he continued to chew, the taste began to improve.  At his own surprise he took a second bite, then he took a third.  Soon the entire pickle was gone.

“Good, good—you did real good.  Now let me explain.  I’m what you call a seer.  Do you know what a seer is?”

“My dad tells the waiter at the restaurant to have his steak seared.”

“Close, but different, she corrected.  A seer is a person or being with very special talents.  I have the ability to see things, things in the future.  And if there is a good reason and the right circumstances, I can sometimes change the future.  I can change things for better, or sometimes worse.  Have another pickle.”

Larry took a second, then he took a third.

“You know, Larry, I can read people.  I can tell a good person from a villain.  I can even tell someone who will be a good person in the future or will become a villain.  You may call them devils.  The pickles help me along the way.  They are sort of a test.  And Larry, I know that you are and will be a good person.  In fact, I know that you will be a great person—a hero.  Now Larry, take another look at tomorrow’s newspaper.”

With trembling hands, Larry once again picked up the newspaper.  The headline now read, “Halloween night: surprisingly uneventful.”  The first paragraph reported the usual pranks and mischief, but no other notable events.

“Now, Larry, go on home and remember you are one of the good people.  Those boys you were with lack your bravery, and inner strength.  Remember this.”

Larry left the house and made his way home in the dark without the aid of Dale’s flashlight.  When he reached home the gang was waiting and being severely chastised for leaving Larry.  Larry explained that he had visited in a house and stayed awhile, but declined to give further details of the encounter.  The gang looked at him as though he was some sort of heroic figure.  

Larry knew he would never forget that Halloween, and that his life would include a great future.  The seer had told him so.  He would have liked another pickle.

In the future, he would frequently go out of his way to pass by the old Willard house.  He never again saw an inhabitant, but would never forget that Halloween. 

October 05, 2023 19:12

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