grUBERfest 2012: "FUN SIZE"Submitted by FALLEN at 2012-10-26 14:05:48 EDT
Rating: 1.75 on 14 ratings (16 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
As Halloween nights went, it was picture perfect. The wind had been picking up since sunset and the crisp air accentuated the crunch of the leaves under foot. The crowds of children scouring the neighborhoods for free goodies were better than most people had expected in light of the missing Culverton boy.
Scotty Culverton had gone missing a few weeks back. There was nothing overly mysterious about it. Normal enough family, nice kid, well liked by everyone, but one night he simply didn’t come home. The police investigation turned up little as they asked the usual questions, and as it was they were leaning towards a simple runaway.
It would take more than a disappearing eight year old to keep kids inside on All Hallows Eve with the promise of free candy calling them.
Hands were clutched a little tighter and eyes paid notice to every little detail that night as parents led the littler ones around. By the time the streetlights came on the babies were inside and the ten year olds ruled the streets.
John and his younger sister, Maggie, took advantage of the lessened competition and were cleaning up on candy quite nicely. The two had already dumped the contents of their respective plastic Jack-o-lanterns into Johns backpack twice and were well on their way to a third. Being out later than the streetlights was not really a problem for the two. They had grown up learning to look after themselves more than most kids their age. Their mother passed away years ago and their father did his best on his own. He worked nights but his confidence in their inherent street smarts allowed them to stay out later for trick or treating.
Besides, how lame is Halloween in the daytime?
Maggie stopped to tie her shoe and readjust the skirt on her pirate costume, as her brother took a quick inventory in the army backpack of his soldier costume.
“Kit-kats, m&m’s, peanut butter cups, um… some change, and candy corn. Blechhh, those are yours.”
“Shut up doofus, those are nasty.” Maggie said.
“Just like your face.” John teased as he tossed a candy corn at his sister’s tri-corner hat.
“Cut it out!” she yelled as she swatted at him with her sword. “How much longer are we staying out?”
Looking at his watch then taking a quick scan of the people on the streets, “Dunno, a little bit longer. I promised dad that we would be in before the streets got really empty.”
John thought for a moment and detailed his plans to his sister.
It seems all kids have an Eisenhower like tactical skill deep inside them for planning out their Halloween assaults.
“Let’s head up to the corner and then do the streets this side of the school. We can hit the other side of Maple Street and be back home in no time.”
“Don’t forget that dog on the left side about half way.” Maggie reminded him.
“Right . . . we will cross sides at the Johnson’s house so it doesn’t start barking.”
John’s plan proved profitable as they passed house after house guarded by flickering pumpkins, their candy bags getting heavier with treats. It wasn’t until they passed two ghosts and a werewolf, ushered by their moms, that they heard mention of the first prize of Halloween, that most mythic, unattainable treat—
“I can’t believe we got full size candy bars,” one of the ghosts said through his bed sheet shroud.
Specifically full sized Snicker bars. Someone was giving away the Holy Grail of candy. Skipping the bite-sized nonsense and single Reeses Peanut butter cups and giving out full size candy was a sign that someone meant business.
After a quick conversation with ghost #2 the location of the house was revealed to John. He and Maggie made a bee line before the candy ran out and the hour grew late.
The house in question belonged to Barbra Rogan. Mrs. Rogan was an old lady who had been living alone for as long as kids in the neighborhood could remember.
She kept to herself most times, the exception being when she helped with bake sales for local charities.
The siblings stood on the sidewalk outside the gate to Mrs. Rogan’s yard, hesitating before venturing in.
Every neighborhood has that one house that the kids pass a little quicker than others. Overactive childish energy and the need to tease one another often leads to the creation of local myths and stories. An old woman in an old house makes for a great place to dare or scare younger kids, even though there was never any reason to think anything bad about Mrs. Rogan.
These were the thoughts that made the kids pause before unlatching the gate.
Fueled by the promise of free candy as they climbed the steps and rang Mrs. Rogan’s door bell, any fear they may have had vanished as quickly as it came.
“Maybe she’s asleep, old people go to bed early don’t they?” Maggie asked as her brother pushed the button a second time. Before he could answer her, the door knob turned and light from inside spilled out onto the porch.
“Trick or Treat!” the two said in unison to the figure in the doorway.
“Well hello children, aren’t you out late?” Mrs. Rogan asked as she looked around. “And all alone too, I see.”
She was quite old, but not feeble. Her slight Eastern European accent sounded strange to the kids even though her voice was kind and very grandmotherly. The siblings had no grandmother of their own and immediately took a liking to her comforting tone. Her fine hair was a silver grey, done up in a bun and held in place with bobby pins. Small wire frame glasses were perched on her nose.
“I had expected all the children to be in for the night, I had put the treats away. Now you two stay right there.”
Standing on the porch, they could see inside the woman’s home. The walls were wallpapered and the foyer was lit from a small hanging chandelier. The shelves were filled with collections of random old books and knick knacks, ceramic cats and cows, vases with plastic flowers.
“Old people’s houses smell.” Whispered John.
“Shut up” chastised Maggie, although she did agree with her brother. The house had an odd aroma like popcorn and fresh ground pepper.
A loud crash and a yell interrupted their discussion.
“Mrs. Rogan? Are you ok?”
Maggie’s concern was answered by a low groan from the other room. Opening the door, she crossed the foyer with her brother right behind her. Entering the living room they found Mrs. Rogan struggling to pull herself into the chair. Candy bars and a bowl lay on the floor near her. They helped her settle into chair as she explained what happened.
“Thank you children, I had one of the lights off and banged my leg on the ottoman. It’s no worry little ones, just a fall.” Mrs. Rogan rubbed one ankle as if it was sore.
“Let me get you some ice for that before it gets bad.” Maggie said. “The kitchen is this way?”
“No that’s alright dear, don’t go in there . . .” The old woman protested, but Maggie was already down the hall. As she opened the kitchen door she let out a startled gasp, causing her brother to follow.
As the children stood in the doorway they looked on a room in direct contrast to the rest of the decor. Contrary to the drab, aged interior they had seen so far, the kitchen was bright and modern.
Stainless steel countertops lined the perimeter of the room, above white cabinets. The windowless walls were covered in white tile as was the floor and the ceiling. A long fluorescent light fixture hung over a center island, also covered with stainless steel. On the island was a variety of knives and cleavers on a cutting surface that drained into a sink. Large hooks hung from the ceiling. On the opposite wall was an oven big enough for a restaurant kitchen.
The children silently stared at the kitchen, their eyes darting from knife to hook to stove to cleaver. Their young minds desperately tried to make sense of what they were seeing. They turned toward each other, but before either could utter a word each felt a firm grasp on their shoulders as Mrs. Rogan stood behind them.
“Oh, how I wish you listened when I called you back. But come in my little morsels, you’ve only seen a little.” Her voice cracked, her maternal kindness fading with each word spoken. The old woman’s grip tightened as she shoved the two into the kitchen and released as she latched the door behind her.
The children stared in horror at the sight of her. Her hair hung to her waist in loose strands, the silver gray filled with streaks of black. The old woman’s hands were claw-like now, pointed nails jutting from long fingers with bulbous joints. The once kind bespectacled eyes were dark holes devoid of compassion. Her warm smile had been replaced by jagged teeth.
Fighting back tears Maggie asked, “Are you a witch?”
“A witch? No. but I have been called that, and worse.” Mrs. Rogan smiled and leaned close, causing the little girl to whimper and pull back. “My kind has been around for as long as yours, children, living among you. We draw little attention to ourselves and we survive. Sometimes you cattle find us out, or think you do.”
The children hugged close as the hag paced the floor, circling like a predatory animal.
“All those poor women burned as witches in Salem, not a one of them was one of my kin. Superstitious fools. I was there, laughing inside as those stupid cunts roasted alive. Fire burns me just as them, but I never saw the flame in Massachusetts.”
She let out a laugh that chilled the kids to their core.
“I have been alive for a long, long time. Long before I moved here. And I stay alive by being smart. All you kiddies parading up to my door, each one more delicious than the last.”
She touched John’s cheek and then licked it as if to taste him. “To be sure I wouldn’t be overcome with hunger and took the time to create a proper meal, I had a snack. A young man named Scotty. Was he a classmate of yours? If so, he’ll no longer be attending school . . . and neither will you. I didn’t need this attention I didn’t need you little fuckers poking around in my house, and now I need to fix the situation.”
She grabbed a meat cleaver and lurched towards them, causing Maggie to burst into tears.
“Oh wait,” she said, “What am I thinking? I forgot to pre-heat.”
Setting down the cleaver, the hag turned and limped toward the oven, and John assumed her injured ankle existed in this form as well.
“Be ready to run ok.” John said trying to sound brave for his sister.
“What? What are you going to do?”
“Fire. Remember what she said? Fire can kill her. When she goes to the stove that’s our chance. Just run when I tell you.”
John’s instructions were cut short by the sound of the oven door opening. He pushed his sister towards the door and charged the hag, knocking her headfirst into the oven. Shouting over her muffled screams, John told his sister to run.
Maggie fumbled at the latch and swung the door open, and she and her brother raced to the front door. The door opened and they only got a single breath of cool night air before it slammed shut again.
The smell of burnt skin and singed hair filled their noses and they felt cold claws around their necks. They were lifted easily, their feet dangling as they were turned to face the hag.
“I don’t know about you children, but I find an electric oven bakes much more evenly. Tell me what you think.”
Mrs. Rogan’s laughter echoed off the walls as she carried them back to the kitchen.