The news warned about a killer on the loose, but it’s hard to worry too much about monsters roaming around out there, when you have them inside your own home already.
“A killer on Halloween? Sounds like a prank,” Dad grumbled while popping open a can of beer. “The news is all a joke.”
“They’ll come for you tonight when you’re all alone,” Sadie, my obnoxious older sister, threatened.
I rolled my eyes, and said, “let ‘em. Nothing I can’t handle.”
Having Halloween all to myself wasn’t an issue. I liked handing out candy to trick or treaters and seeing their neat costumes. Well, some of them had neat costumes, anyway. Others dressed kind of the same. It never bothered me when older kids came for candy either. Better than going to some underage drinking party, right? As long as they didn’t throw eggs at my house. I mean, it wouldn’t be undeserved and I’d totally understand, but I’d also have to be the one to clean that all up.
Dad chugged down the beer, burped, crushed the can and tossed it on the floor. Then grabbed his keys and said, “Heading out.”
His plan for the evening being to meet up with some woman he talked to online who was probably a prostitute. She might think he wore some kind of redneck Halloween costume with his beloved mullet and all, but that’s just Dad, unfortunately. Flannel shirts are technically a button-up and therefore, fancy by his standards.
“I’m leaving too,” Sadie said. “If I see the killer, I’ll send him this way.”
I’m betting Sadie will be one of those kids egging houses. Maybe just shoplifting candy and sneaking into a scary movie. I finally had the house to myself. I dumped the bag of candy into the pumpkin bowl and placed it by the door. Then made sure our walkway was well lit and the jack o’lanterns were ablaze. I put a little boombox by the door to play fun kids' Halloween music. Nothing too scary. Cute stuff.
The air had a nipping chill, but at least it wasn’t snowing. That happened last year and kind of spoiled the whole thing. I thought back to when my mom would bundle us up in layers under our Halloween costumes, making them all look totally uncool. I missed her, but I don’t blame her for running for the hills when she got the chance.
I looked up and down the street taking in everyone’s display. Our neighbors put up that stupid fake spider web stuff. Don’t they know that’s dangerous for animals? One of our neighbors went all out with a full haunted house in their yard. They liked to prove they had more money than the rest of us any chance they got, but at least the kids got something from it. The house at the end of the street was completely dark. What a shame.
I went back inside to feed Bozo some snacks. He was our … you might say dog, but that’s not quite right. I’m not sure what he is. Looks a little doggish, sure, but he ain’t. He has bright, glowing red eyes, and sharp black spikes that stick up from his spine. I’d say he's wolf sized and all black, like a shadow. I gave him some pieces of raw meat. Dad’s the one that named him. I don’t really like that name. Think it’s kind of mean. I found Bozo in a cave deep in the woods. There’s something about that cave. Each time I go back, I find something new.
While in the kitchen, I heated up some pizza rolls in the microwave and grabbed a handful of candy to bring down to Lucinda. She’s a girl Dad met from the internet a few weeks ago and chained up in our basement.
I flipped on the light switch and walked down the creaky stairs. Lucinda sat on a dirty old mattress. Her eyes looked like raccoon’s from the mix of runny mascara and bruising.
“Denny!” She cried out. “It’s good to see you again.”
“I brought you some food. I know it’s not the best, but I don’t really know how to cook.” I shrugged.
“Thank you. It smells delicious, sweetheart.”
“Oh, I forgot to bring you a drink. You want some orange soda or tea?”
“Water would be great.”
“You sure? It’s Halloween.” I handed her the candy.
She smiled with her lips, but her eyes looked full of pain.
“Water is fine.”
“Listen, Lucy. We need to talk.”
Her eyes met mine, and I could see fear written all over her face. I pulled up a chair and she placed a hand on my knee. With only her short red dress, she’d be too cold outside. I needed to get her better clothes. I was much bigger than her, but baggy clothes were at least still warm.
“Dad’s out meeting another woman like you. He’ll probably bring her back here tonight. And, well, let’s just say there’s never been two of you at once.”
Her mouth and eyes widened.
“But there’s good news. I got a secret weapon stored under my bed and I’m not afraid of him anymore. I’m gonna let you out. I’ll bring you some clothes. Not very stylish ones, but you’ll be warm. Eat up. You need energy to run.”
“Thank you, Denny. Thank you so much. I’ll never tell anyone–”
“I don’t give a shit if you tell anyone. Let that man rot in prison. Maybe they’ll take my sister too. All they do is pick on me.”
She nodded sympathetically and plopped a pizza roll in her mouth. I could tell she didn’t like them, but better than nothing.
“You’re not worried what’ll happen to you?” She asked.
I knew what she meant. I was technically still a kid. Only fifteen. Probably I’d get sent off to some foster family or spend my days at some facility or something. Honestly, I’m not really sure what happens to kids like me, but I am just a kid and that’s got to help me out somewhere, right?
“You could come with me,” she said.
Lucy and I had bonded over these past few weeks. I liked her a lot. I had visited in secret as much as I could, bringing her down meals, magazines, cigarettes, or whatever else she needed. The offer tempted me. “No, I got to see this through. I’ve got a plan. Don’t worry about me. I’ll get you some clothes.”
“You’re such a sweet boy, Denny. Thank you.”
I went upstairs to grab her some clothes. A growl from underneath my bed shook the floorboards. She was getting hungry. Good.
Lucy pulled on a pair of my jeans and with a belt tightened them enough to stay on. Then she threw on my favorite sweatshirt. I gave her a prepaid cell phone I purchased after securing my weapon, a wad of cash I stole from Dad, and some directions out of there. She kissed my forehead and ran out the door. My heart swelled with joy seeing her take off.
I settled on the couch watching horror movies and answering the door for trick or treaters. Each time I felt surprised it wasn’t the cops. Then I went to bed. The growling underneath me soothed me into a deep sleep. That cave sure was special.
My bedroom door burst open sometime later. Dad was drunk as a skunk and angry as a fisher cat. He yanked the covers off my bed. “Where the fuck is she? What have you done?”
I patted my bed. “Riley, it’s time.”
“What the fuck?” Dad asked and gave me a look like I was stupid. A look I’m familiar with. Then he heard the rumbling growl that shook the floors and walls. Heard the crash of objects falling off shelves from the vibrations tossing them. Green, slime-colored eyes popped open and glared at him from underneath my bed. With a hiss, sharp dagger like teeth flashed in the light that pooled in from the hall. Dad froze.
Riley emerged. Her spike covered head almost scratched the ceiling. Sharp clawed hands reached out to Dad, who now screamed. Riley grasped him and chomped down, swallowing his head whole and leaving a clean cut across his neck, like he was a mannequin you could just take the head off of.
I watched Riley finish Dad in four gulps. Then she curled her dragon-like body in a circle beside my bed. I stroked her head in the spots I could touch without slicing my fingers and she made what sounded like a purr. “You did good, girl.”
Riley slipped back underneath the bed. I walked downstairs to free the new girl.