Dianne was an impressive woman. Strong, independent, and loving towards her two daughters. In her world she was a successful person. Working a nine to five. Cooking dinner every night. Reading bedtime stories. Hosting dinner parties for the neighbors every week. The only problem was with her and her husband, Mack. Repeated arguments had torn the couple apart. That years halloween couldn’t have been any worse. Mack was spending more time at the bar while Dianne had completely immersed herself in a social life. All to avoid the consequences of being around Mack.
Every Halloween Dianne cook pumpkin pie. A hard recipe to grasp. But she did it with absolute determination. Her pies became known around the community as an annual treat. Something that couldn’t be bought at the grocery store. Dianne always made sure that every family got a pie. Especially Mr. Gregory, her nextdoor neighbor. Mr. Gregory rested in complete solitude. A recluse by nature. Physically he’d found it difficult to navigate life in his little old wheelchair. That didn’t stop Dianne from always bringing him a pie on Halloween. This particular year would be different. Much different.
In the kitchen of their four bed two bath house Dianne slaved away at a masterful creation. Another pie for the books was nearly finished. As she put on the final touches she hadn’t realized that something was coming for her. Prowling behind her with absolute patience. Something sinister. Something big. While concentrating on the delicious list of ingredients she’d failed to recognize the tall, lumbering monster behind her. When she finally turned around, it was too late.
“Ahhhh!” screamed Dianne. She began to repeatedly punch the man standing in front of her wearing a clown mask. Punching him in the stomach with no avail.
“Stop! Stop! It’s me,” Mack moaned, pulling off the clown mask and tossing it aside.
“Dear lord, you nearly gave me a heart attack,” she gasped. Mack smiled and chuckled to himself.
“Gotcha didn’t I?”
“No, you didn’t. Also you’re late,” she said angrily, turning back to her pie. Mack threw up his arms in disbelief.
“I was just trying to have a little fun. And late for what?”
“Late to pick up our daughters from school.” He sighed heavily and walked slowly to the front room. Picked up the keys, and left. Dianne smiled to herself. Alone at last. Her pie was finally finished and ready for Mr. Gregory.
Resting near the door was her favorite jacket, which she threw on before leaving. The pie was in a small container. She’d bought a handful of the containers for such an event. They were cheaper than alternatives.
Mr. Gregory’s home was directly nextdoor. If Dianne and Mack’s bedroom window were open they could see across to it with little effort. A fine grey house that, surprisingly, held up nicely over the years. Though Mr. Gregory couldn’t really do any work himself, also he didn’t have the money to do such repairs. Luckily Dianne always offered herself to do any work necessary.
When she got to the door she noticed something was a bit odd. All of the windows on the house had curtains covering the rooms. At the front door the small window showed that inside all of the lights were off. She also noticed that Mr. Gregory’s handicapped car was not in the lot. Had he left for groceries? She wondered. Despite signs of absence, she knocked anyways. Once, twice, three times, four times. Finally a noise. Someone, or something, shuffling inside. The lights remained off but the lock on the door slid open with ease. Dianne took a small step back from the doorway. Her heart began to beat a little faster. The door was never locked. Mr. Gregory always left it open to visitors, like herself. She watched as the door handle began to turn slowly. Then it started to open. Almost too slowly. Dianne saw an unrecognizable hand gripping the handle. When it finally opened all the way, she was shocked.
Standing before her was not Mr. Gregory. In fact, it was someone she’d never seen before in her life. A young, handsome man, with chiseled features and luscious blonde hair. His eyes were easy, and his lips appeared softer than a cloud. Dianne stared at the man before her with pure lust. He was the most beautiful man she’d ever seen before. Overcome by attraction, and slightly surprised, Dianne wobbled to the side.
“Are you okay ma’am?” he asked. His voice was gentle. Soft. Kind.
“I’m-I’m fine… I uh… I’m looking for Mr. Gregory,” she straightened herself out. The man frowned to himself.
“Well ma’am I hate to break it to you but Mr. Gregory’s dead. He’s been dead for ten years,” he admitted.
“What? No that’s impossible,” she said suddenly. The man sighed.
“It’s true, I’m his grandson John.”
“Well I’m his neighbor, and I’ve brought him pie for the last five years,” Dianne retorted. John sighed again. His eyes studied her with gentle ease.
“How about you come inside for some coffee and we talk about it. Sound good?” he smiled. Dianne nearly choked to death. Coffee with him? It sounded like a dream come true. A true fantasy before her. With confidence she nodded.
It wasn’t long until she woke up, back in her bed. What happened? She wondered. How had she gotten back to her bedroom? It must’ve all been a dream. Next to her in bed was an empty spot. Which was weird because Mack always slept in. Thinking of her husband she remembered she had to go to work. She must’ve been the one who slept in, she figured. In a rush she showered, dressed, and ran downstairs. But once she got down there she found in the kitchen there wasn’t any food.
Dianne knew something was wrong. Extremely wrong. She ran outside to the street and what she found horrified her. All along her street there were small hoards of people. People she’d never seen in her life. At both ends of the street was a barrier. But not a regular barrier. It was a clear glass wall. The barrier before the court to her left held what appeared to be a group of men dressed in black hoods. They were pounding on the glass wall and yelling in gibberish. None of their faces could be seen. All that could be seen were their hoods, and ghostly white hands that stuck out at the ends. Dianne gulped. At the other end of the street there was a simple bus stop behind the barrier. Her street hadn’t had a bust stop before. What was this place? Was this all a big dream?
“Is that you Dianne?” asked a voice near her. She turned slowly to see the man standing behind her. It was John. John was real.
“John! What happened?” she asked, terrified. John was wearing the same outfit as earlier, but on his shirt was a splatter of red blood. Dianne assumed it was something else. He walked over to her and tilted his head to the side.
“Wait… you don’t remember?” he asked.
“No what happened?”
“I uh… I can’t say,” he looked down. Dianne grabbed his shoulders and shook him.
“John what the hell happened? And what happened to our neighborhood?”
“Well,” he sighed,”you might want to walk with me for a moment.”
The two walked along the sidewalk where they could. Crowds of people littered every spot on the street. People just like her and John. Some freaking out, others crying, others accepting the new reality. John explained that they were on the Halfway Street. A short stretching neighborhood where some go when they die. Essentially a middle ground between heaven and hell. On one side were the Ghouls, held behind a barrier. On the other side was the bus stop. Every month both of the barriers were opened. Those fortunate enough to make it to the bus, went to heaven. Those who were caught by the Ghouls would be carried to hell. Some people would simply hide in their houses to avoid the whole charade. Scared of getting caught.
“Tomorrow is the end of the month,” John finally said. Dianne looked down accepting what this meant. She was dead. Her family was no longer with her. Mack was on his own with their daughters.
“It’s gonna take some time,” Dianne admitted before heading back to her house.
“Dianne!” yelled John. She looked back. He stood in the middle of the street standing proudly.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get there together,” he promised. Dianne nodded and grinned a little. She could do it, with John.
That night she hardly slept. But when she did she kept having the same nightmare. A masked man. At first she thought it was her husband wearing the clown mask. But it was a different costume. A red mask. Covered in dripping blood. The mask was on a man wielding a knife. Who had the mask belonged to. What did it mean?
Before morning Dianne walked to the window and looked over at Mr. Gregory’s old house. In the window of the home she saw John putting on a button up. Sitting on the table, to her horror, was a mask. The same mask from her dreams. But what did it mean? Why did he have the mask? Is it possible she’d seen it before. Perhaps while she was having coffee with him. Did they even have coffee? Was that when she died? All was a mystery to her.
A large group gathered in front of the bus stop barrier. John found Dianne in good time and the two stood next to each other. Slung around John’s shoulder was a duffel bag. He smiled at her, and she smiled back.
“John do you remember how I died?” she asked. John raised an eyebrow.
“Um… no I don’t,” he admitted.
“Well how did you die?”
“I uh… I forget,” he rubbed the back of his neck.
“How do you forget something like that?” she wondered aloud. With no warning John walked away quickly. What was wrong with him? She’d thought they were running together. Then the pieces began to come together in her head. Slowly but surely. Coffee at Mr. Gregory’s. The bloody mask. A large knife. John suddenly appeared before her again. This time wearing the mask and holding a big blade.
“I can’t believe you don’t remember,” he chuckled. It all came to her.
“You killed me!” she gasped. John nodded and raised his blade in the air.
“And I’ll do it again!” he cackled before swinging the blade violently at her head. Dianne ducked and the knife went slashing through the people standing in front of them. Three of them fell down bleeding. Dianne realized that people could die here too, but that meant they wouldn’t have a chance to make it to the bus stop. Their fate would already be decided by the Ghouls. She ran away from John down the line of the barrier. Pushing through people with haste. John continued to pursue her, slashing through the people to make a path. Suddenly a loud siren went off sending everyone to the ground in pain. Dianne desperately covered her ears but the noise kept persisting through. Then the barriers dropped.
With little hesitation Dianne jumped up and bolted towards the bus stop where the bus was already waiting. It had probably arrived while the siren was going off she assumed. Behind her there were screams. But she didn’t look back. Among others Dianne made it to the bus and found a spot. But so did John, who arrived last. The Ghouls continued to pursue the crowd that struggled to get in.
“Hey Dianne,” chuckled John walking down the aisle towards her. Defensively she stood up with two fists.
“You won’t get me again you monster!” she yelled angrily. John twirled the knife in his hand playfully.
“Oh I will. This time your husband won’t try to stop me,” he said walking slowly towards her. Dianne raised an eyebrow confused. Then the memory finally filled the gaps in her head. Mack was there. He had come to her rescue. Dianne remembered lying on the floor in a pool of blood while Mack, above her, fought John and eventually turned his own blade against him. She stood a little taller realizing her husband was not the loser she thought he was. In a swift move she kicked John in the groin and pushed him back towards the door where he stumbled down the steps and on the ground outside the bus. He screamed in horror as the doors closed and the Ghouls latched onto him and the others outside.
“No! No!” he screamed. Dianne smiled at him and waved before sitting down. The bus roared to life and started going. Next to her was a little old lady knitting. Dianne smiled to her.
“Nice creation, whose it for?” she asked.
“They’ll get it when we get back home,” the lady smiled. Back home? What did that mean, Dianne wondered. Her question was soon to be answered as the bus traveled into the light and she woke up, in Mack’s arms. Above her were doctors all standing around. Mack looked down at her tearfully.
“Honey you’re back,” he cried. Dianne smiled with more joy she’d ever had.
“I’d never leave you babe.”