""Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates-the darkest and most evil of thoughts.""
-Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Haunted House of Wax

By T.K. Millin

The pounding rain and tumultuous thunder seemed a blessing to him as he crossed the county line into Whisper Cove; because if there was one thing he liked more than surprises, it was being the surprise. 
He slowly drove past a row of dilapidated buildings and brought the bus to a squeaky stop and grinned, it was perfect.
Whisper Cove was not the first town he had arrived in unexpectedly, and it wouldn’t be the last.  
Just like all the other towns before, by the time Halloween morning had loomed, Whisper Cove had a new resident and every lamp post throughout town was adorned with colorful flyers announcing the grand opening of Boris’ Haunted House of Wax.
Caitlin swayed back and forth on the porch swing hoping there wouldn’t be another storm tonight.  She wanted to look perfect in the costume her mother had made her for Hannah’s Halloween party.  She liked dressing up and being someone else and she also knew her costume would be the best out of all the other sixth graders. 
“Hey Hannah wait up!”  Caitlin swung open the front door, grabbed her red hoodie and trotted down the steps. 
“Did you hear the news?”  Hannah continued walking.
“No.”  Caitlin slipped her hoodie over her head, blindly trying to catch up.
“There’s a haunted house of wax in town.” 
Caitlin slid her hood back and tucked her hair behind her ears.  “Since when?” 
“Since last night.  It suddenly popped up out of nowhere and just in time for Halloween.”  
“Wow!  Where is it?”
“Over by the old abandoned school and grocery store.”   
“Is that where you’re going?”  
“Yeah, want to come along?”
Caitlin reached inside her pockets.  “I do, but I don’t have any money.”  
Hannah pulled an orange piece of paper from her coat pocket, unfolded it and handed it to Caitlin. “This says any visitor's brave enough to enter get in free.”
Caitlin glanced over the page.  "Let's go!"
In anticipation of who his first guests would be, he made sure the lighting was perfect and everyone was in their proper place.  Then he stood back and smiled. 
An echo of the pounding door knocker woke him from his fantasizing and he briskly made his way toward the door.
“Welcome to Boris‘ Haunted House of Wax.”  He bowed and gestured for them to enter.
Caitlin nudged Hannah in the side and Hannah nudged back.
“Please do not be afraid, we have a splendid show for you.”
Hannah hesitated and then stepped forward.  “Are you Mr. Boris?” 
The right side of his mouth curled up, leaving the left side frozen in place.  “You will meet Mr. Boris in a little while.  I’m the caretaker.” 
Hannah looked back at Caitlin and shrugged and then stepped over the threshold.  Caitlin took a deep breath, gulped and stood next to Hannah.  The caretaker closed the door and then silently turned the lock.
They kept their distance between them and the caretaker as they followed him down a dimly lit corridor.  “You young ladies must be best of friends.”
Hannah reached over and grabbed Caitlin’s hand and squeezed and replied, “We do everything together.”  
Caitlin returned the gesture.  “Since the second grade.”
He turned to the right and walked through a black draped curtain.  They looked at each other and nodded.  Hannah walked through first and Caitlin slowly followed behind. 
“Wow how cool!”  They said in unison.
They ran from one display to the other not noticing the caretaker had slipped out of the room or that each of them had turned a different direction.  
“Look Hannah, it’s all the Wizard of Oz people!  They even have Toto.”  She reached out and touched the stiff fur.
"It feels so real."

She turned around in a circle only to find herself alone in a room filled with not only the Wizard of Oz people, but Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the Seven Dwarfs, Alice in Wonderland and, even, The Three Little Pigs.  All her favorites.
Hearing footsteps, she said, “Hannah?  Mr. Caretaker?  Is that you?”  The footsteps became louder and the room suddenly became cold.  She pulled the hood of her hoodie up over her head and called out again, getting the same response.  
Remembering it was a haunted house of wax, she stepped over the red velvet barrier between her and Toto and hid behind the Cowardly Lion.  
When the footsteps faded away, Caitlin stepped out from her hiding place and there in the middle of the room she saw The Three Little Pigs running around huffing and puffing; Cinderella scrubbing the floors, Alice drinking tea as the Cheshire Cat floated in mid-air, and the Seven Dwarfs combing Sleeping Beauty’s hair while she laid snoring.  
Caitlin jumped back behind the Cowardly Lion and when it turned and growled, her screams disappeared in the sudden outbreak of the melody, Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
“Caitlin where are you?”  Hannah shouted as she ran from room to room.  
Suddenly, she heard the echoes of voices from down the hall and she ran in hopes of finding real live people.  As she approached the room it became dead silent.  
“Caitlin?  Mr. Caretaker?  Was that you?”  She stepped inside the room only to discover she was alone.  
Awestruck by another room filled with lifelike wax figures, she reached out and petted Toto.  She looked around and giggled at The Three Little Pigs; she wished she could be Cinderella or Alice and she wanted to be as beautiful as Sleeping Beauty.  But, the one display she liked the most was, Little Red Riding Hood.     
Hearing footsteps approach the room, she quickly stepped over the red velvet barrier between her and Little Red Riding Hood, and she hid behind the long red cloak.
When the footsteps faded away, Little Red Riding Hood turned and smiled and Hannah screamed, “Caitlin, no!”

Total word count:  990

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Perfect Pumpkin

By T.K. Millin

With Halloween being a week away I knew I had little time to find the perfect pumpkin to gut and carve for the scariest jack o’ lantern contest at work. This year that prize money was going to be mine, no matter what.

Having lost the last three years’ contest I decided I needed to find a new place to buy my pumpkin. It seemed over the years finding one that wasn’t bruised, crooked or puny in the grocery store had become more and more difficult.

I knew in order to find the perfect one it would have to be locally grown, so over the upcoming week-end I planned on going to the Farmer’s Market in town to pick out the cream of the crop.
My alarm clock announced the rising sun sooner than I expected, but wanting to beat the early morning crowd, I jumped out of bed and threw on a pair of worn jeans and t-shirt. 

The lawn was glistening with droplets of dew and the air had turned cool and crisp overnight. I traipsed across the slippery grass praying my heap would crank up.

“Come on damn it!” I pressed on the gas and turned the key again.

A tap on my window startled me. My neighbor was sipping on a steaming mug and motioning for me to roll the window down.

“What do you want Mr. Turner? I have somewhere I really need to be.”

“It looks to me, Mary, as if you’re not going to get somewhere very fast.”
I turned the key and the engine cranked. “Yes!”  Then it sputtered, backfired and died. “Shit!”

“I came over to see if you needed help.” He placed his mug on the roof and said, “Pop the hood.”

“Thanks, I really am in a hurry.” 
By the time he got my piece of junk started, two hours had passed. I panicked the whole way toward town at the thought of being pulled over for speeding and, worst, only finding pumpkins left that no one wanted.

The parking lot was packed, but I managed to fine one lone spot in the front hidden by a large truck. Following the pumpkins, gourds, and more signs I weaved my way through the crowd, passing table after table of antique tools, holiday crafts, and fresh farm eggs. Finally I spotted a table with a display of apples and gourds.

“Do you have any pumpkins?” 

The elderly man who looked as though he rode into town with his sidekick, Tonto, simply shook his head.

“Please you have to help me. You see, there’s this contest, and well I have to win, and well I don’t want to go to the grocer for a pumpkin, and well that’s why I’m here.”

He sat expressionless, shaking his head.  Suddenly, a man’s voice from behind said something foreign. I spun around and my heart stopped.   

“Sorry, my grandfather doesn’t speak English. How can I help you, Mrs.?” The tall dark hunk said.

Damn it, I wish I had taken time to at least put a smidge of lipstick on. 

“It’s Miss . . . Mary.”

“Hello Miss Mary, I’m KoKo. How can I help you?”

“That’s an interesting name.”

“It’s Blackfoot, means night.”

I smiled at the elderly man. “I was just explaining to your grandfather that I’m desperate.”

KoKo raised his lush brows.

“For the perfect pumpkin.” After an awkward moment of silence I added, “It’s for a contest.”

“I’m sorry but we sold out.”

“Oh KoKo please, can’t you help me? Time is running out.”

He paused and then nodded. "Follow me.”
“KoKo may be the most gorgeous man I’ve ever laid eyes on, but I think he may be a little off his rocker.” I thought as I placed the satchel and pumpkin seed in the freshly dug hole.  

I walked back to the house and poured a stiff scotch and sat by the fire. Who ever heard of planting this late in October and expecting to have a full grown pumpkin in a week? But, then again, he is an Indian and he said the seed came from fertile ground.

Every night for the following week I went out into the garden after work and watered my pumpkin seed, waiting for some sign of life, and every night panic would consume my every thought.

The night before the contest I again headed out to the garden, eager to see what I would find. “Damn that son of bitch! I bought that stupid Indian hocus pocus with the last of my week's allowance.” 

I sat by the fire and poured another glass of scotch, wondering what I was going to do. All week long I bragged about how mine was going to be the scariest face. I slammed my drink and poured another when, suddenly, I realized I forgot to make a wish like KoKo told me to when I placed the seed in the ground.

I shoved on my garden boots, grabbed a flashlight and trotted out into the garden. Perhaps there’s still time! I bent down and grabbed a handful of dirt, made my wish and gently blew the dirt back to the ground. “That should do it.”

I wasted no time falling asleep, because if I wanted to win the contest I’d have to rise early to get carving. Something woke me before the alarm and I rolled over to check the time. “Oh my head. I shouldn’t have had that last scotch.” The glowing green numbers said 6:05. “Damn!”

I flew out of bed, ran to the bathroom and switched on the light. I screamed in horror when the only thing I recognized were my eyes peering out from behind the most perfect pumpkin I had ever seen. 

Shit, why did I wish for the most perfect pumpkin head?   

Deciding not to waste a good thing, I walked into the kitchen, picked up a carving knife and began to gut and carve my perfect pumpkin. 

Word Count: 999 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Knock If You Dare

                       By T.K. Millin

Within hours the dead silence of the street would soon be alive with wide eyed little monsters running from house to house shouting, “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” 

The darkened figure rocked back and forth on the withered porch chair listening to the rustling of the leaves, waiting and hoping this year would be different. 

The population of Carnival Towne had never grown beyond the size of the fifty or so carnies who worked the traveling big top. The only time outsiders would come to town was once a year, no matter what day of the week, they arrived in droves on October 31.
Over the years, Carnival Towne had earned the reputation of being the best little town to go and trick or treat in because every house was decorated and every house handed out candy; with the exception of one house. But to some outsiders half the fun on Halloween was playing tricks on the last house on the corner.

The halls of Westmore High had been buzzing all day long with the chatter of going to Carnival Towne to trick or treat. Being new to town, Danny couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

A week ago during basketball practice he had reluctantly promised his teammates, Adam and Stan, he would go with them to Carnival Towne, but he made it clear he was not wearing a costume. He had outgrown that silly tradition way back in junior high.

“Hey Danny, change your mind about wearing a costume?” Adam shouted from behind.

Danny stopped and spun around, “No.”

Adam caught up with him and the two of them walked to gym class. "So what’s the big deal about this Carnival Towne and why does everyone in town only go there on Halloween?” Danny asked.

“It’s really a matter of tradition.” Adam shrugged, “and Halloween is the only time of year the strange carnie people look cool.” 

“What do you mean by cool?”

“I don’t know. I guess you could say on Halloween it’s cool to look like a werewolf without a mask or to have lobster claws without wearing gloves.” 

Danny threw his books into a locker and changed into his gym clothes. “All day long I’ve been hearing about the last house on the corner. What’s the big deal?”

“It’s the only house in Carnival Towne that doesn’t decorate or hand out candy so we trick the house.” Adam finished tying his sneakers.

“What does that mean?”

“You know, trick or treat?”

Danny shrugged.

“If a house doesn’t hand out treats then it has a trick played on it. You know, like throwing eggs at it and then covering it with toilet paper. It’s fun, you’ll see. Oh, and Danny, if I were you I’d at least wear a mask.”


“You don’t want whoever lives in that corner house to know what you look like because tonight we are going to play the best trick yet.”

“What are we going to do?”

Adam pushed open the gym doors, “You’ll just have to wait and see.” He ran onto the court without looking back.

The clock struck eight and Danny stepped out to the front porch to wait for his teammates to arrive. Before Stan’s car even turned the corner Danny heard the revving of its engine. The cherry red mustang pulled up to the curb. “Come on Danny we don’t want to be the last ones there!”  Adam yelled from the passenger seat.

“Show him what we have!” Stan said.

Adam flung a black duffel bag on the back seat and Danny unzipped it and looked inside. "Why do we need flashlights and screw drivers? Where are the eggs and toilet paper?” 

Adam looked at Stan and then back at Danny. “I told you tonight we were going to play the best trick yet. My plan is for the three of us to go inside the last house on the corner and scare whoever lives there.” 

Stan pressed on the gas and the three of them sat in silence as the car roared toward Carnival Towne.     

“Danny look, there it is!" Adam pointed to an eerie orange glow in the distance. 

The street gradually became darker as they made their way through town and when they pulled up to the last house on the corner all the roaming little monsters had faded away. 

Adam clapped his hands together. “Yes, we’re the first ones here!”

“Wait, maybe one of us should go up and knock on the door first." Stan looked at Adam. “You know just to see if anyone answers.”

“You’re right.” Adam looked at Danny.

“Why me?”

Adam shrugged. “Come on, knock if you dare." He handed Danny a plastic ghost mask and flashlight. "Oh, and Danny, if someone does answer, don’t forget to say trick or treat." 

Wanting to look brave Danny grabbed just the mask and stepped out of the car and headed toward the darkened porch. He wrapped the elastic strap over his head, took a deep breath and knocked three times on the door. 

Danny stood not knowing what to do when the door creaked open and nobody was standing there. He looked back at the car and Adam and Stan were walking up the path wearing plastic ghost masks and waving flashlights around. 

“Let’s go in.” Adam muffled, handing Danny the flashlight.
The three of them entered one at a time shining their beams of light around, but the only thing they could see was their reflections on the walls. 

The door slammed shut and a darkened figure stepped out from the shadows and said, “Finally, after all these years, someone knocked.”

Danny, Adam and Stan all ran in different directions and old man Carver, the carnival headmaster, stood chuckling with delight.

After all, what fun would a carnival town be without a house of mirrors?

May you have a spooky and fun Halloween!

Word count: 998