Funny Horror

Beside me sits a veiled menace. On my other side, my sodded friend whom I recognize by his satisfied gurgle as the sloshing liquid from his flask flushes down his throat. In the darkness, I have only my ears as front-line defense against my overcharged imagination. No matter, I was on a mission.

If you're wondering why I'm here, ask my therapist. Yes, that one, the one who tinkers with your mind. My therapist insists that my rabid interest during sessions of childhood story tales should have girded me for dealing with real life horrors. It didn't do the trick. Instead of arming my brain, I sat entranced, gobbling down hordes of candy, wondering why Hansel and Gretel were in such a rush to get home after incinerating the witch. I would have hung around to engorge on all that luscious gingerbread. As for the vampires, I worried more about the transmittable beasties in the blood. I knew enough to stay away as my sister was a frequent victim of blood poisoning. Were vampires really immune to disease or was their throat fetish so overpowering? In effect, I thought they were stupid.

The dark itself got to me. It stirred up my imagination and anxieties. Snapping sounds during darkness messed with my amygdala. (If you have had any therapy, you will know it’s your brain's grand central station for fear and anxiety.) Daylight was cleansing, all the bogies vanished.

Halloween provided the perfect opportunity to handle my fears. My therapist suggested I go to a haunted house. It was a radicalized form of CBT if you ask me. If you ask my therapist, they'll defend Cognitive Behavior Therapy as a very effective way to overcome fears. I doubt my therapist suffered anything more haunting than a song in the last twenty years. Most spots post cardiac warning signs. I'm certain such CBT would result in my first certified cardiac event.

The Monster Marathon at the local theater was a compromise. Actually, more of a hybrid. I sold my therapist on the idea by indicating that I would be facing terror in the dark. A double whammy of silver screen specters and 'real' ghosts and ghouls breathing down my shivering neck. To be clear, my mask protected my neck as well as my face, as well as any plastic evil black bowl could. The first rule of fear is not to show it, so I felt certain my face wouldn’t give me away. The mask could be detrimental while driving, but effective protection against flesh eating zombies. I’ve heard they don’t like the taste of plastic.

As far as I know, I was safe from zombies. Outsize boxes of candy or sweets dumped into quiet opening plastic bags bulge against me hidden away on the inside pockets of my cloak. Well, did you see their price in the lobby counter? Just a couple would pay for a therapy session. Okay, at least half. I legitimized myself by purchasing a small beverage (no ice!) which I prominently displayed like a torch as I marched down the aisle.

Marching was somewhat justified. The lobby festered with horrific monsters. The effect was offset if the repugnant creature slurped a carbonated drink or, worse yet, succumbed to the smell of delicious popcorn by immersing an appendage in the ersatz striped box. ‘Gotcha’, I'd sneer and pat myself on the back for bravery.

 Such encouragement propelled me to the next level: scrutiny of the integrity of their costume. Whenever I spied a too perfect candidate, I executed a general inspection. If gratified, I stalked the intended until they were too distracted to notice my hovering. At times, it helped if I lowered my head into my cloak and slumped about as a hobbled vampire. If you’re questioning that tack, I should remind you than any vampire worth an ounce of salty blood could fly off at will. If I glimpsed so much as an imperfectly glued claw, they were impotent as far as I was concerned. They couldn't scare me after that if they went so far as to doff down a quart of fake blood. One thing I can say about myself: I expect my monsters to be perfectly executed to gain my respect, or should I say terror.

So obsessed am I, I follow a mummy into the washroom. I just had to see the technique they used to execute necessities. My Darth Mater costume consisted of basic New York black shirt and pants. Motorcycle boots and a cloak finished off the look. My boosted height and the mask disguised my voice. Good thing, as it was a men's washroom. I hung my head to avoid looking at the latrines while playing with the water in the sink. I slunk out as soon as it was discreet to do so, but the disappointment of an unwrapped mummy lingered.

In any case, the mummy reveal was gutted by the flashing house lights alerting all cinema junkies into their seats before the Monster Marathon began. I squeezed past an assortment of monsters including a formidable looking wolf and settled into my seat secured by the splayed overhang of my friend.

 Oh, and what a movie marathon. No let up on gore, ghouls, ghosts and the ubiquitous vampires and zombies for three hours and that was just the beginning. I was so glad I had brought a huge stash of candy!

The silver screen villains carried on as expected. I didn’t care. The real-life breathing ones encircling me gave me goosebumps. The mask didn’t filter out their foul breath which hung in the surrounding air. As for body odor, I began to suspect that some hairy costumes were the real deal and didn’t want to compromise their authenticity by using deodorant. As a purist, I couldn’t fault anyone for that. I avoided turning about in the dark to verify my suspicions. 

So far, so good. I settled in for a blissful three hours of munchies. First, I opened a bag of peppermint patties. Oh, the aroma! They fit nicely through the slot that served as my mouth. The next pleasure was cinnamon bears. Some of them had fat tummies which got stuck in the mouth slot. If anyone could see me, they’d think nothing of red bits of flesh protruding from a Darth’s lips.

It was bliss, until it wasn’t. The first sensation of invasion I wrongly attributed to errant rolling debris around my feet, bits of round candies and soda bottles and such. I dismissed my cloak lifting to blowing air purging the smells. When I reached inside my cloak pocket expecting candy, I touched something furry like a paw. I caught my breath.

It had to be a hand, but my mind said otherwise. A big hairy claw was next to my hand in the dark pocket. The claw moved. I didn’t. I froze in the dark. My beating heart hoped all it wanted was a piece of candy – it could have a whole box -- take it! My heart flipped as the hand jumped my pocket and landed on my thigh. I took a sharp gulp of air and held it. I was surrounded by monsters with no protection at my side. Darth’s light saber would be of no use. If only he carried an ordinary flash light. I could pound at the claw while casting a beam of light about. It would create a disturbance. The disturbance would rescue me.

The drunk slob sitting next to me offered no noble display of defense. It was up to me to save myself. I exhaled. Breathing is all the rage in therapy and Darth had that down pat. My breathing became deep and loud. Inspired by Darth, my exhale, morphed a ‘hmmm’ into a growl. The hairy claw lifted and disappeared into the void. My voice had power. If my mouth hadn’t been frozen, I might have smiled.

Bravery marked the final hour. I conducted routine searches through the pockets seeking malevolent claws. I held my evil head high and crossed my arms over my chest in victory.

 My companion slept away when the house lights flickered on. The metal flask was at his side less than an arm’s reach from me. It would have served as a perfect weapon to pommel the claw. I rose slowly befitting a Darth.

I clutched the sides of my cloak and surveyed the area. The neighboring seats were empty. The wolf was gone. I swept up the aisle into the lobby. I was greeted by a bedraggled group of monsters. No one was pristine, I smiled. They were fake. My fears were fake.

The house lights flashed signaling the second session. I watched the tattered horrors flee down to their seats. I turned to face the dark street. The fresh night air called to me.

Into the street I strode spewing candy wrappers from my pockets as the wind whipped my cloak. I couldn’t wait to tell my therapist about my ordeal. I wondered what she’d think about my new dress code.

May 26, 2022 22:37

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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