This Weeks Prompt: 72. Hallowe’en incident—mirror in cellar—face seen therein—death (claw-mark?).
The Resulting Research: Polished Silver Distorts The Eye
The autumn wind was cool on my face. The grinning faces of the jack o lanterns weren’t enough for warmth. It was that most wonderful night of scares and sweets. The most wonderful night of the year. I went to the old haunt of my ghastly crew—the iron gate near the graveyard, where it had been agreed we’d all meet.
Jordan and Lamark were the first to arrive. Jordan had painted his face green and had two cardboard ‘bolts’ sticking out of his neck—Frankenstein, I think. Or the monster from Frankenstein? Or Frankenstein’s monster? The scary dead man. Lamark was in a black and white skeleton costume—Did they meet up and decide to both go as scary dead people? Maybe. Maybe.
“So, we’ll circuit around the Renolds and then to the Prices.” Jordan said, gesturing at the hand drawn map in his hand. “The Renolds have the most candy, but everyone knows that. If we don’t hit them up early, they’ll be out by the time we get there. And the Prices are nearby, but Mr. Price goes to bed early, so we need to go there next.”
“But the Prices give out those hard candies!” Lamark protested.
“Right, but my cousin loves those. We can trade them for some chocolate coins he finds somewhere.” Johnny said, nodding.
“Your cousin’s weird.”
“The weirdest. Alright, and then after the Prices, we…” Johnny said, continuing along the route through town. I nodded, walking the route in my mind as I clutched my bucket.
“…and then we all meet up back here. Now, where’s Phil?” Johnny said, rolling up the map. I looked around for Phil. He was always late, every year. If he was very late, he might cost us the Price’s candy. Lamark started tapping his foot impatiently, until at last Phil’s heavy breathing could be heard. Wrapped in rags—again with the scary dead people, was that all they could think of?–Phil came up the hill, wheezing and staggering.
“Sorry, sorry. Had to—had to get around the Collins house.” Phil said waving his hand. “Took longer then…then expected.”
“You could’ve just walked past it. House is harmless.” Johnny said shrugging. I nodded in agreement. I’d been to the Collin’s house a few times, and there was nothing wrong with it. It was just old.
“Harmless? I’ve seen things there, man. It’s haunted, I swear—there’s lights in the middle of the night, and Luke saw someone digging around in the yard, but there weren’t a hole there in the morning.”
“Yeah, because you fill up holes after you dig them, moron.” Lamark said, rolling his eyes. “I mean, he’s probably looking for the Collin’s gold.”
“The Collins what now?” Johnny said, turning to Lamark.
“Their gold. My grandpa said the Collin’s great granpa—uh, well great granpa when he was a kid, so great great granpa I think?—got rich off something in China, and were paid in tons of gold. Buried it near the house, in case he needed to find it and to stop the government from taxing them over it.”
“And it still there?” Johnny asked, thinking a bit.
“Course it is. I mean, if it wasn’t, we’d hear about it right?” Lamark said.
“…Right, what if—hear me out—what if we just gave the place a quick look on the way back? I mean, we cut across there between the Avery’s and the Johanson’s. Just a quick stop, you know, see if we can find anything.” Johnny said, unrolling his map to point. I frowned. If we stopped, we might miss some of the candy, and then what was the point?
“Tonight? You want to go tonight? If it’s haunted, it’ll be haunted tonight!” Philip protested.
“What are you, five? There aren’t any ghosts there. Just an old house that might have some buried treasure.” Johnny said, waving his hand. “Sides, if there are any ghosts, we’ll just scare’em off.”
“…Fine.” Phil relented.
I sighed and took the back as we walked down the sidewalk, heading towards at least the first candy.
The Collins house looks old, even nearby. The roofs look heavy on bent wooden walls. The panels have swollen with rain and paint. The yard is over grown, more weeds then grass. In the spring, dandelions and bright yellow flowers bloom. But in the fall, its brown and marshy and dead. The fall had gotten rid of any buzzing mosquitoes, or weaving spiders. Orange leaves pilled around the single lone, bent over tree. There were strange colors along the bark where lighting had struck not long ago. The wind ruffled the dying grass.
“Right, not that hard see?” Johnny said, unlatching the gate with a stick and walking over the drive way, broken by roots.
“Yeah, but a stop with no candy still seems stupid.” Lamark said, shivering a bit. I had to agree—we had a good haul so far, but it could have been bigger.
“Who knows, we might find some souvieners.” Johnny said, shrugging. Phil was to busy cowering to complain. Well, to complain loudly. I heard his mutterings of how foolish it was to be wandering this far out, at this hour, on this night, to a haunted house.
“Or maybe something to trade for candy or something. Besides, what if we get to see a ghost?”
“Thought you said ghosts weren’t real.”
“Probably, but I mean, it’d be cool if they were right?” Johnny said, walking up to the rotted door.
It gave when he pushed, the knob worn and rusted. The floor creaked in as we followed, the dust thick on the ground and the tatters of cob webs spun over the stairs. A starved spider dangled from the rafters, swaying in the wind. Our flashlights fanned out faster then us, checking for a glimmer of silver or gold.
We were quiet as the grave as we walked, each plank creaking or crunching. The house was bare—no chairs, no tables, not cups, no food, nothing. Utterly hollow inside, even the wallpaper peeled away to leave barren gray planks.
Johnny wanted to go upstairs, but there was no way Phil was going to cross the ruins of arachnid civilization. He was convinced spiders were lurking as ghosts right there, unseen and unheard. Not that what Lamark found next was much better.
“No. No no. No no no. Not the basement. Come on, I don’t even go into my basement.” Phil said, staring at the small stairway down.
“Won’t go in the attic, won’t go down the stairs…Come on Phil, if you were gonna stash something, you’d put it down there right?” Lamark said. “We’ll just go down, have a peak around, and come right back up, then off to the Vernon’s place for more candy.”
“No, no way. I’m not going down there.” Phil said, shaking his head. “Nothing good’s down there.”
“Fine, if your gonna be that way, you can stay up here alone as look out. Lamark and me will go down, see that there’s nothing, and come right back so you can get some sweets. Or, better yet, you can just run home.” Johnny said, descending back down, before Phil could respond. Lamark shrugged and went down as well, with me nearly knocking Phil over as I followed behind.
The basement was mostly empty. A few tarps, a broken smatterings of wood. Lamark sighed with relief—until another light shown back at us. Johnny laughed when he shouted, putting his hand on his shoulder and pointing.
“Well, we found something.” Johnny said. It was a small sliver of mirror, under a tarp—barely shining the light back at us.
“We could probably take it back.” Johnny said, walking up to it. It was small-ish, maybe as big as a small pillow. “Think it’ll look neat.”
“Heh, like you need to see your face more often.” Lamark said nervously, still scanning the room with his flashlight. “Well, we looked around…Better head back up.”
“Yeah, yeah, just let me see this.” Johnny said, removing the tarp from the mirror.
And then he saw me. I waved, and he made a horrible noise.
And then Lamark made the horrible noise when I tried to stifle Johnny’s noise, his fake bolt hitting the mirror. Lamark ran up the stairs as I pushed Johnny against the mirror. I don’t know if he saw me, but I heard the door slam shut. I turned after him, forgetting that I left a bit of a red claw mark on the mirror. I got up the stairs in no time, and saw Phil standing there. Staring at me, red dripping from my fingers, candy fallen on the ground. Phil, to his credit, didn’t run this time.
This story was fun to write, even if the climax was a bit rushed. The writing was delayed some by moving, but actually came fairly naturally. It’s a bit of a common of a ghost story, and I think the ending is broadcast rather clearly. Still, even if a few months early for the great holiday, I enjoyed it!
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