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Most of us associate Halloween with all things horror. But even horror can have its funny side, as you will see with the following books by Mark Kasniak.
Genres: Anthology, Adult Horror, Humour
Autumn Harvest: A Celebration of Halloween and the Macabre… brings together all the fun things that may have scared you as a kid about Halloween while taking those stories a step further by adding a new dimension that will horrify and sicken you as an adult.
In this creepy and dark humored anthology consisting of a dozen or so short-fiction pieces and the Novella, “A Pumpkins’ Halloween” you will be catapulted back into the world you remember as a child where ghost, vampires, zombies, all kinds of boogeymen were real. You will also experience a new form of terror as an adult in reading these stories because many of the villains that these tales encompass could be easily pulled right out of the headlines.
Such stories in this book include:
The Express: Four friends go on a camping trip near the site of an old train wreck and get more than they’ve bargained for.
Damnedborough Radio 104.1 am: Rick addicted to collecting junk brings home a radio that broadcasts the voice of a demon.
Exit 34: A women recounts the experience of a time when she was young and on vacation with her family when they stopped off at a restaurant where you might end up on the menu.
A Halloween Story: A man at the end of his rope experiences a drunken Halloween.
Cold Mutton Soup: Mike and Jim discover resurrecting the dead may not be all that they thought it would be.
Glenn and Death: Loser in life, Glenn Oliver, finds himself accompanied by the grim reaper to a party in the afterlife that Glenn may not be ready for.
A Pumpkins’ Halloween: A novella which focuses on five jack-o-lanterns taking turns telling scary stories on Halloween as they watch passerby trick-or-treaters shuffle past them on their fun-filled evening.
And, many more stories… thirteen in all.
WARNING: THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK. IT HAS A ADULT THEMES, LANGUAGE, AND SITUATIONS
Free on Kindle Unlimited
“Where the hell are we going already?” I griped at Charlie as I sat in the back seat of his old sedan becoming ever increasingly more impatient.
“Shut it already and quit your whining, just wait till we get there,” Charlie shot right back at me and wasting no time in doing so. “It’s a surprise, so just chill.”
“All right, fine,” I huffed, electing to just bite my tongue. “But, can you at least tell me how much longer? I’ve got to take a wicked piss.”
“Not too much further now, ten minutes at the most.”
The truth was that I didn’t have to go to the bathroom all that bad. I was just anxious about where it was that we were going on my favorite holiday, Halloween.
Mostly my anticipation stemmed from knowing Charlie would always come up with the best ideas of things for us to do on Halloween. Usually those ideas involved us just spending the night hanging out in some place frightfully spooky while we all got absolutely shit-faced, but we always managed to have the best time.
Still, over the past few years, old Charlie seemed to be pushing the envelope a bit. Like this one time, I believe it was two years ago, but it might have been three, I got pretty messed up that night and now it’s hard to remember. But anyway, he took us to check out Goodleberg Cemetery in a rural southern town in the county, and let me just tell you this place couldn’t have been any creepier. Right from the get go its old, chained up wrought iron gates sent the message—KEEP OUT!—loud and clear.
The cemetery was believed to have a history of being haunted by the souls of hundreds of aborted children whose bodies were hastily dumped on the grounds. The doctor having performed the procedures is believed to have hung himself somewhere on the cemetery grounds after having been endlessly tormented by his guilt.
Between the ambience and the legends that went along with the place, it really screwed with our minds like a good, haunting, ghost story should.
Then there was last year when Charlie took us to the George Eastman Mansion in Rochester. The two hundred-year-old home still carried with it rumors of it being haunted by the ghost of George Eastman himself (George Eastman was the founder of the Kodak film company.) but alas… we never did see him.
Those weren’t the only places, though. We’ve been to many other spooky places over the last several Halloweens, none of which I could honestly say I’d been disappointed with. So, this year, after having not been told where it is we were going, the anxiety was killing me.
After laying down a few more miles worth of rubber on the highway, Charlie eventually pulled the car over to the side of the road. With the sudden move to the shoulder, gravel and dirt could be heard tinging off the vehicle’s undercarriage while a cloud of dust billowed out from behind us in our wake.
“Are we here?” our buddy Eric who was riding shotgun asked as a perplexed look took over his face.
“Yep,” is all Charlie replied as he threw his Ford into park.
“Where exactly are we?” I asked, looking around while slowly exiting the vehicle. “This is the middle of nowhere.”
Charlie didn’t bother to answer me, he just said, “From here we’ll have to walk a little ways, so help me get the stuff we’ll need out of the trunk.”
After following Charlie to the rear of the vehicle we all then gave each other a fleeting glance as he popped the lock.
Once the trunk lid came up we peered inside the storage compartment and then Eric asked Charlie. “Is that camping gear?”
“Why yes it is,” Charlie answered with a smirk.
“You never said this was going to be an overnighter,” Erick complained. “I would have at least brought my sleeping bag and a girl.”
“Well, now you know, And, as if you could ever get a girl,” Charlie quipped sardonically. “Besides, what else did any of you babies have to do tonight?”
“Yeah, but it’s the end of October, Chuck,” I protested. “It will be cold as shit in the middle of the night.”
“Well, that’s what a campfire is for, now isn’t it? Besides, I got enough camping gear for all of us and I brought a bunch of T-bone steaks for dinner and a whole cooler full of beer.”
“Well, you had me at steaks and cooler full of beer,” Eric said having suddenly changed his tone.
“What about you, Mike, I know you’re in, right?” Charlie asked while he passed him a pile of the gear from the trunk.
Mike, who had remained fairly taciturn up until this point just sounded off with a resounding, “Hells yeah, I’m in.”
“What about you, Pat?” Charlie then said now turning his attention my way. “You in, or are you going to be a big, fat, stinking pussy again?”
“Whoa, when have I ever been a pussy?” I asked having been affronted by Charlie’s implication. “You know damn well I’m always up for camping and anything creepy and Halloween, especially if there are steaks and beer involved. The only thing that would make this any better would be actual pussy.”
“Okay, fine, then on the way home we’ll get you a cat that you can molest. Now let’s go.”
We then began our assent off the highway and I right-a-way noticed a sign standing just off to the side of the road telling of the historical significance of the site we were at. It talked about an old train wreck that happened right at that very location in Angola, New York on December 18, 1867. A locomotive, called the Express, had left Cleveland heading due east for Buffalo. And, as the train approached this very spot in the line, somehow two of its most rear passenger cars had become derailed. The coaches went skidding from the track smashing into the side of a bridge’s cement guardrail that the locomotive had been crossing.
After striking the bridge, the last passenger car along with the one located directly in front of it went tumbling down the escarpment that the bridge spanned. Upon hitting the ground at the bottom of the escarpment, the passenger cars, having been built mostly out of timber, quickly became engulfed in fire when the coal stoves used to heat the coaches had spilled out their contents. The combination between the derailment and the fire resulted in the deaths of forty-nine people.
Charlie went on saying that the coaches had burned for hours in the middle of the night because the nearest help had been at least thirty miles away.
For a moment, we all paused as I think we all just imagined what the surrounding area must have looked like back then in 1867. Nothing but farm country for miles around, and by the looks of it, it pretty much still was.
The lull was finally broken when Eric enthusiastically said, “Hey, you know what? I think I’d heard about this before, but in the story I heard the local farmers reported having heard the screams of the injured and burned up passengers wailing all through the night and for miles around.”
I had no idea if Eric was telling the truth or just making up bullshit on the fly just to screw with the rest of us. But none-the-less I still got a chill up my spine. “Man, that’s pretty messed up if that’s true,” I told him in a low tone having felt disquieted.
After yet another long moment of awkward silence, Charlie then spoke up with, “Yeah, I though you guys would like this place. That’s why I picked it this year.”
“Well, what are we waiting for?” added Mike and then he began to trek off from our spot on the edge of the road. “Let’s go check this bridge out.”
The rest of us grabbed our stuff and quickly followed him as he headed off the highway hopping over a guardrail that kept sleepy drivers from entering the small drainage ditch running parallel to the roadway. Just beyond, on the other side of the ditch I could see the start of a little gravel trail that led away from the highway working its way into deep brush.
As we descended the narrow but navigable path Charlie had taken the lead carrying the tents. Eric then followed him with an arm full of collapsible chairs along with a bag of charcoal. Mike was next in line with the steaks tightly wrapped up in butcher’s paper, a two-pronged cooking fork, and a grate which would go over the fire giving us an impromptu grill. So, that just left me bringing up the rear, losing pace with the rest of them after having been slowed by being loaded down by the heavy cooler full of beer, but happy to be so. The beers were the only thing that I really wanted, and lots of them.
The railroad tracks still ran parallel to the highway, and it wasn’t long before we had reached our destination. I would’ve bet we had only walked about a quarter of a mile down the path when we had suddenly come to a clearing. It was really nothing more than a rocky gravel outcrop of a creek bed that ran along the stream’s east bank before tucking itself away just below the rising archways of the old, historic train bridge.
The loose-stone bar was where we had decided to camp for the evening because of its terrific view of the ancient trestle.
I rested the cooler on the ground and began shaking the blood back into my forearms to abate the pins-and-needles that I felt twitching through my nerves and exhausted muscles.
Glancing around, I couldn’t help but think that where we were standing might have actually been the exact location of where those two passenger cars came crashing down the ravine transforming themselves into a funeral pyre for their living cargo.
I then glanced up to take a good look at the mammoth bridge standing before us like a cathedral. Its designer having constructed two massive archways crafted out of brick and cement. Hanging from its substructure was part of its rebar skeleton core noticeable as pieces of the bridge’s outer skin weathered and crumbled away over the past one hundred fifty years.
Still, though, looking past its obvious dilapidation, the bridge was still a sight to behold, and I found myself awestruck. You just didn’t see that type of craftsmanship anymore—the attention to detail, the old-world European beauty, and the creative-care that went into its construction. The bridge was an absolute work of art. Something that I imagined would’ve cost a small fortune to build in today’s market.
Taking in the rest of the area, I saw mapping throughout the creek bed and even submerged deep within the creek’s clear waters were some very old pieces of twisted up and rusted out metal consisting of all different shapes and sizes. I had mentioned the junk to the guys and none of them had a guess as to if the pieces of iron had come from the bridge, after having fallen away from its substructure, or if it were just common, everyday trash dumped there by a littering scumbag. I myself, though, had secretly held onto the belief that it may have been part of the train, left over from the old, demolished railway cars that had come crashing down here somewhere that fateful night in 1867.
After taking in the view we quickly got to work with setting up camp, which took us less than thirty minutes. I had noticed when we’d finished that we seemed to be getting a little better at constructing camp each year because I could recall times way-back-when, back when we first started our little camping trips that it would have taken us a lot longer.
But it didn’t take long before Mike had gotten a fire going which quickly helped to take the chill out of the rapidly cooling air while Eric and Charlie went to work on preparing our steaks for dinner. I had taken to guarding the beer from marauders or the occasional raccoon with a drinking problem and had done an exemplary job at it too.
Once we had a nice, even bed of hot coals we went ahead and threw a half-dozen or so foil-wrapped potatoes in the fire for baking. Then, while they cooked we sat back and listened to The Grateful Dead jamming out on the radio Charlie brought. (How fitting for a Halloween night, I remembered thinking.)
As the evening progressed into darkness, the fire flickered its waving yellow and orange lights against the walls of the bridge. And as it did, we watched a small colony of bats emerge from their hiding spots deep within the cracks and crevasses of the old structure that they had slept the day away in, only to materialize in search of dinner themselves.
About an hour after dusk a freight train came roaring through, passing over the bridge and giving us evidence that the line was still indeed an active railway. As that freighter had approached the sound it made in its wake was almost deafening, and its sheer moving tonnage shook the ground underneath us like it was falling victim to a small earthquake. Even though I had known we were safe, that the train would pass us by with no problems. I still couldn’t help but find myself somewhat frightened by just how small I’d been made to feel when five million pounds of steel came screaming past me at fifty miles an hour.
After the train passed, its sudden, unexpected presence had gotten all of us talking about the Express and what it must have been like for those passengers that fateful night. None of us could even remotely comprehend the horror they must have felt when the cars they were traveling in were abruptly slammed into the bridge’s side structure, only to fall asunder to the creek bed that lay before us.
Thinking pensively of what must have happened to those people left me feeling disquieted and sorrowful. Heck, if the four of us wimps just got ourselves freaked out by the presence of a freighter rumbling passed on the above span, then what must it have been like inside one of those coaches for those poor souls? I couldn’t imagine the horror of experiencing the train breaking apart all around you as it tumbled its way down the steep embankment with you trapped inside screaming.
At half past eleven I noticed the night seemed to take on an even more gripping chill. The full moon showed itself and was almost at its highest point in the night’s sky. The orbs position, thankfully allowed it to cast off enough light so that we could see our way throughout camp well enough to be able to walk around even without the aid of a flashlight or the fire.
By ten to midnight the four of us were beginning to wind down and by then we were just chilling back in our chairs as Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds acoustically jammed on, going into a fifteen-minute long rendition of “Two Step”. The frogs in the creek had stopped croaking having had their bellies filled up with crickets and mosquitoes as we had done with our steaks and potatoes. And, to me, the world just seemed peaceful—content. I was even about ready to call it a night, having been looking forward to the good night’s sleep I had planned on getting with the temperatures expected to dip down to the mid-forties. I actually think we all had planned on enjoying nature’s air conditioner that evening, even Mike who was naturally always cold. But, just as I was getting ready to get my lazy bones up from my chair we had heard the sound of a faint whistle pierce out in the darkness.
“Train…?” Mike asked quizzically.
“Yeah, we should be about due for another one,” I answered without so much as even opening my sleep-laden, drunken eyes. “We’ve only seen the one so far tonight, and that was almost six hours ago.”
The train’s whistle sounded off for a second time, this time much louder and more distinct than the first because the locomotive had seemed to be rapidly approaching us at a very high rate of speed.
“Does that train sound like it has a whistle, like on an old-fashioned steamer?” Eric asked having also now sounded somewhat perplexed.
“Yeah, so what?” responded Charlie.
“Well, trains don’t have whistles anymore. Only steam locomotives did and all the railroads went to diesel-electrics like fifty years ago, so any trains we hear should only have an air horn.”
“Yeah, good point,” I said chiming in my two cents but paying no more mind than that.
“It can’t be a steamer, can it?” Mike asked. But, before any of us had answered him, he said, “I’m gonna head up to the top of the bridge to check it out. See if I can see it coming.”
I myself had by now become somewhat curious to see just how far off the locomotive was and if it were a steamer, so I said, “Hold up, I’ll come with you,” and then I quickly shook off my sleepiness and followed up the escarpment in pursuit of Mike.
Mike and I then snaked our way through the embankment until we had gotten to the top of the bridge where the tracks loomed. As we stood on the tracks and peered down the line, we could see the train’s ominous front head lamp still quite a distance off to the west. At that moment I had thought it may still have been about roughly two miles away, but I could’ve been wrong. What I did know for certain was that it had been coming our way and closing in fast.
Not wanting to play chicken with a train, Mike and I both then made our way back down the embankment to where at least Eric was waiting anxiously for news of what we had seen.
“Let me guess, you saw a train coming?” Charlie quipped with a touch of sarcasm in his voice.
“Wow, smart guy, nobody gets anything past you!” I said giving him shit right back. “Thank God your mom’s abortion on you didn’t take or the world would be a lesser place without that sunny disposition of yours.”
“Eat my ass, douche bag,” Charlie then grumpily snarled.
Without having noticed, an airy fog had slowly begun to roll its way in around us, its origin coming from somewhere underneath the bridge and the other side of the creek.
With the sudden arrival of the fog the already cool autumn air seemed to chill even further down to a frost-cold as the thick cloud filled in the area, choking the visibility all around us. The abrupt plummet in temperature having brought with it a fresh set of goose bumps for me which caused me to give thought into throwing a few more pieces of wood upon the fire.
The train’s whistle powered off again and this time we could all tell that it was only about a mile, maybe less, away from us at this point.
As soon as the whistle faded into the night it was quickly replaced by the screeching sounds of metal grinding against metal. The loud clatter carried and echoed throughout the night’s darkness, causing all of us to share a worried glance with one another, completely frozen up in silence.
“Is that thing braking?” I tentatively asked.
“I don’t know,” Mike answered in a low voice.
“I think so,” Charlie then responded to the two of us.
The whistle again blasted off, this time in three short bursts as the locomotive’s locking brakes tightened their grip on the wheels, forcing them to grind to a halt on the tracks.
As the engine approached we could hear the steel ‘I’ beams or the rails begin to make sibilant sounds as they hissed like cicadas under the sheer tonnage of the approaching locomotive.
Before any of us could even take a breath, there it appeared coming into our view. It had rolled across the bridge and came to a stop just as the last of its kinetic energy expired with a huff of steam.
None of us had ever seen anything like it. Well lit and glistening in the moonlight like a relic from the past traveling down a road that had long forgotten it. The engine shinned a metallic black that sparkled. Gray smoke continued to still bellow from its stack. Two enormous side rods connected three equally impressive wagon-style wheels in unison. From my position I could see a fire’s low light flicker from out the boiler hatch along with the darkened silhouette of a man, soon figuring that he must have been the train’s engineer. Behind the engine was a coal car followed by four coaches and what I had guessed was a baggage car. The first two passenger cars were illuminated in a wash of light and you could clearly make out the distinct silhouettes of people and even children sitting patiently in their seats.
We all just stood there unable to move. Not a one of us could utter a single word even if we tried.
Suddenly, a man leaned out the doorway of the second passenger car. I could see him dressed in a tightly fitted vest, and a brimmed hat. “All aboard!” he yelled out.
Then, with his call the ground beneath our feet began to shake as if a second train were about to cross over the bridge. The vibrations pace quickened to a tremor. Stones and other pieces of loose gravel that had been scattered over the ground started to slide dancing to the rhythm of the sudden earthquake. Old deadfall branches and piles of half-rotten leaves began to make their way down the hillsides as they freely tumbled into the creek. The sounds of the subsiding earth then became replaced by sounds of deep, hoarse moaning that seemed to resonate throughout the air as it flooded in from all around us.
We looked at each other not knowing what to do. I could see the same horrid, pallid look on each of my friends’ faces, and I was sure they could see it on mine. A look of utter disbelief, the look of what-the-fuck is going on here, this can’t be happening?
The moans grew louder and more intense as more and more voices could be heard coming from the darkness. They clamored and wailed as if building up to a crescendo.
The fog slowly began slipping away from overtop most of the creek only to reveal a grotesque hand and forearm reaching up through the mud of the creek bed and the clear, shallow water as if it were a plant growing up out of the ground. The limb’s flesh appeared tattered, split open, and burnt like the meat of a chicken leg left on a grill too long.
Before we even had a chance to truly grasp just what it was that we were witnessing, a second putrefied hand and forearm began to emerge from the stirred up muck of the creek. The two arms then crooked themselves at the elbows and anchored their hands on the creek’s bedrock to allow the leverage needed for the rest of the carrion to begin slowly pulling itself up from its muddy grave.
What emerged was what appeared to have been at one time a man as the corpse struggled to free itself from the grip the earth had on it. His horrid face looked as if it had been cleaved down the middle, and where the split showed itself his skin peeled wide open, pulling his facial features down on the left side of his skull. In the exposed gash nothing but a void remained, his eye clearly missing. As his head turned and twitched up towards the starry night, his neck creaked and snapped where broken parts of his spine jutted out of his ragged skin.
We watched intently as the dead man fully pulled himself out from the water and in doing so we had completely forgotten about all of the still steadily increasing cries that were rising behind us.
The man worked to steady himself on to the bank of the creek as excess water from the stream drained off him. I thought he might have been in his mid-thirties, but there was no way for me to tell for sure, he was just too monstrous. I did know for sure that he must have been wealthy given the long overcoat, white dress shirt, and a black bow tie which he still adorned. Wealthy, although his clothing had seen better days, now shredded, burnt, and covered in muck and ichors which appeared to be old blood and bits of flesh.
The man let out a moan that sounded as if he were choking. Its resonance was dry and gasping as if he were making an ill attempt to talk, but his throat seemed still filled with dirt. He awkwardly shuffled in our direction. The stench which wafted from him could only be described as five-day-old roadkill on a hundred degree day.
As he inched a few more feet towards us, his head slowly began turning as he looked up at the locomotive sitting atop the bridge. I could hear the bones in his neck popping and snapping like dried-out, brittle twigs as he moved unsurely.
From behind us to our left side just past the cusp of the very edge of the woods we could hear more shuffling and moaning nearing ever closer. All of our attentions then left the dead man’s animated corpse to assess this new threat from behind.
In the shadows I could make out several other forms coming forward. To my right lumbering out from between a scattering of trees and stepping into the clear wash of moonlight came forth a woman. She had raven-dark hair with a touch of gray streaked through it, yet she was still very youthful looking even in her current decayed state.
Huddled close behind her was what looked to have been her children, a girl possibly in her late teens along with her two younger siblings, both also girls of maybe eight and ten-years-old. The lot of them was not entirely better off in appearance than the Frankenstein man who was now making his way gawking past us.
The woman and her three children each wore big, cumbersome dresses common of the Victorian era. My first thought upon seeing them was utter terror as they inched closer.
My second thought was sadness, and by the time I’d reached my third thought, I was thinking to myself that in their day they must have been a well-to-do family. But, now each one of them dementedly ambled along in their formerly expensive looking clothing, having been soiled and begrimed from head-to-toe in blood, dirt, and filth. All while oozing bodily fluids and the ichors of decomposition which freely dripped from their orifices.
The two youngest of the girls were silently crying and gesturing in feigned screams, but their voices seemed choked from them as if something had stolen every ounce of their breath.
As she moved I noticed the teenage girl was missing her right foot, having been severed clean exposing jagged bone. Both of her arms were as equally shattered, snapped like dried out twigs in several places lending her limbs an accordion look. Half of her long blond hair had been burned away, singed down to her scalp. A good portion of her dress was also missing, most likely incinerated by the long ago blaze.
Just before the girl and slightly off to her right was her mother doing what I assumed was walking. She approached me and Mike before staggering past, the campfire light giving us a good look at her smashed-in face which reminded me of a spoiled pile of ground up flesh—much like hamburger—with bits of bone and hair mixed in at all the wrong places. I thought momentarily that I could make out what had been once a few of her coral-white teeth sticking out from a pink pallet of what must have been her upper gum, but there was no longer any jaw bone left in place providing any proof of what I was looking at having been the woman’s mouth.
Others of the living dead were soon emerging from the woods beyond the women and her children. While still others came from the creek and the gravel trail behind us.
Scenes of great suffering, sporadic moans along with wails of anguish, tormented screams, and the sounds of bones snapping and shifting into place echoed in from all around us. Their dissonance also reverberated off the walls of the bridge’s substructure creating a cacophony of horror that shook me to my core.
More of Frankenstein’s travel companions then materialized from the formerly still waters of the creek.
The ground directly behind Charlie caved in and split into a newly formed crevasse as a set of twisted and rotten hands emerged, then soon followed by an equally grotesque head and neck.
We were now surrounded by a small army of the living dead, our opportunity to hightail our asses out of there long passed. If I would wager a guess, I would have said there were forty-nine of them in total, the exact number that had died in the train wreck all those years ago. Forty-nine lost souls waking up from their hundred fifty year slumber.
As more came into the little clearing that was our camp, I could see that every one of them was maimed and broken in one way or another—none of them had been left unscathed by the wreck.
A man carried his severed arm in his remaining good hand. An elderly man was indefatigable in trying desperately to return his dead wife’s severed legs back to her torso while she clung to him helplessly, her arms draped around his neck.
Most of the victims had some portion of their flesh burnt away, giving off a foul stench into the night’s air that would have normally made me want to revoltingly gag if my other senses weren’t so overwhelmed. Skin was split as if hacked open by a butcher’s cleaver. Bones were broken—shattered to a point that would’ve suggested they were as brittle as eggshells. Large splinters of timber had been embedded and pierced straight through torsos, liberating entrails and viscera that hung loosely from the large open gashes.
In unison they all began to weep louder, their voices having seemed to be coming back to them, and growing rapidly in strength.
I watched remaining frozen like a statue as they staggered past us crying and sobbing uncontrollably. Slowly, we heard them try to utter words instead of inaudible, gargled moans.
I looked over at Charlie and he was frozen stiff like a mannequin, all locked up in fear. Mike and Eric weren’t any better than him.
Not having brought any weapons with us, we were virtually defenseless. Thankfully though, none of the living dead had made a move on us yet even though they had us surrounded. They just seemed to treat us as if we were an intrinsic part of the natural surroundings.
I don’t know why I had even bothered because it wouldn’t have done me any good. I suppose I was just scared and looking for any way of comforting myself—but I had slowly bent down, picking up a tree branch that was meant for firewood, now commandeering it as my first and only line of defense.
I knew the best thing for us to do was run. Try to make it back to the car and just drive like hell. But at the time, none of us wanted to make the first move. Our legs wouldn’t have cooperated with us even if we’d wanted them to. They were about as useless as the severed ones that had belonged to that old woman, which were now oddly reconnected to her—how the hell can that be?
“All aboard!” the conductor called out garnering the attentions of the dead, and gradually they turned to look up at the locomotive still steaming overhead on the bridge. Slowly, they rotated their rotted, twisted bodies facing it. Their feet began to shamble through the dirt and loose stones as they leisurely edged their way over towards the bridge.
The hoard moved in unison like a bunch of drunken football fans exiting a stadium after hours of tailgating and a last second field goal loss for the home team. They culminated coming together, and had bottlenecked the small, weed-choked pathway as they made their sluggish walk up the inclining trail that led through the embankment leading to the top of the bridge.
When the leaders of the pack were half-way up the embankment they gradually began to transform before our very eyes. The wood splinters that had impaled them began to fall from their corpses and were left discarded on the ground. We could hear their bones snapping back into place. Their wounds became smaller-and-smaller and soon closed up altogether not-so-much-as leaving even a mild trace of their existence.
The further they had walked up the incline the faster they all seemed to heal, and by the time the first of the zombies had made it to the top of the hill where the locomotive awaited patiently for them they had been fully put back whole again. Their moans and cries had been replaced with chatter, murmurs, whispers, and even excitement. The slow, agonizing, forced-march shuffle of their battered corpses had become replaced by the fluid movements of able-bodied human beings once more.
They boarded those last two fateful cars near the rear of the train. Then, as soon as the first of them had crossed the threshold of the coaches, onboard lights suddenly flickered to illumination filling the cars with a warm glow.
Fathers helped their children up the coaches’ high steps. The decedent old man who had been trying to reattach his wife’s legs, was now a distinguished-looking gentlemen who took his wife by the hand, helping her climb aboard the last coach. The old broad had even made it up the stairs with surprising ease before slipping into the well-lit car where I then watched her silhouette take a seat in the middle of the coach. Not too bad, I had thought given that she hadn’t had her legs attached to her body for the past hundred fifty some-odd-years.
When the last passenger had made it on the train and then to his seat, the conductor shouted one final, “All aboard!” before waving his lantern up and down signaling to the engineer and fireman that all was clear to proceed.
With a whoosh of air the brakes released their grip on the wheels and a shot of steam powered its way from out the sides of the engine. Thick, black smoke then bellowed out northward from the chimney and the iron giant slowly began to move.
After about ten seconds the lumbering iron horse had progressed down the track to where it was almost out of our sight, hidden away by the encompassing brush and trees.
We watch unwavering as the last passenger car disappeared behind the wall of forest atop the hill. The conductor’s lamp being the last thing we eventually saw glowing in the darkness as it slipped behind the trees.
Once the train was out of sight it was as if the hold that had come over us had been lifted. We didn’t even think twice about leaving our camping gear, cooler, and tents for the wilderness and elements to have, or for someone else to discover.
Looking back on it now, I can imagine that someone had probably found our ruined belongings months later only to complain about the inconsiderate, littering scumbags who had left it, never having considered for a moment why.
As we drove home, we all sat in silence, staring out at the road, shock having had its firm grip on the four of us.
Charlie dropped Mike off first, then Eric. I’d been last because my house was on Charlie’s way home.
As he pulled up in my driveway, I opened the passenger door to get out.
“Good night,” I said still barely able to speak.
“Good night,” is all Charlie somberly mumbled.
“Oh, and Charles,” I said, looking back at him.
Charlie didn’t respond. He just turned his head facing me.
“When next year’s Halloween trip comes around, don’t call me. I fucking hate Halloween.”
A Pumpkins’ Halloween: A Novella
Genres: Adult Horror, Novella, Humour
A Pumpkins’ Halloween is a wonderful tale that embodies all the right attributes that sum up the spirit of the holiday of Halloween. Ghosts, zombies, vampires, maniacs, witches, and talking jack-o-lanterns all take turns playing different roles in this multi-storied novella. A Pumpkin’s Halloween brings to you everything you remember that was fun about Halloween along with a good dose of dark humor, while at the same time scaring and sickening you with its real-life tales of depravity.
A Pumpkins’ Halloween follows the story telling of five jack-o-lanterns as they come to life on Halloween evening. As the jack-o-lanterns banter back and forth while giving each other grief, they find themselves forced to look out on the street because, after all, they’re stationary, they’re pumpkins. As Halloween progresses, each jack-o-lantern takes turns telling a story in celebration of the holiday and one will ultimately be judged the winner at night’s end. However, there is a stipulation. Each story has to be about the trick-or-treaters that the jack-o-lanterns watch passing them by as they go about in search of candy. Also, each story gets to be picked by one of the other jack-o-lanterns for added difficulty.
The stories the jack-o-lanterns tell focus on such taboo subjects as a father who is not very good at being one, a little boy who likes to play with matches, a woman who doesn’t enjoy the company of children, not even her own, and a psycho killer who likes to target trick-or-treaters for his murderous games.
[Warning: A Pumpkins’ Halloween is NOT a children’s story]
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THE PUMPKINS HALLOWEEN
It was just before dusk when the old woman lit the first of five candles being careful to place it firmly in the center of the carved out pumpkin turning it into a jack-o’-lantern. The late October night’s air was crisp and slightly breezy causing the skin on her forearms to rise into gooseflesh and with it she wished she would’ve remembered to put on a sweater before heading outside to light the pumpkins.
From behind the old woman weak gales pushed dry brittle leaves across the front yard of her old comfortable home as by now almost all of the trees throughout the neighborhood had their branches barren of leaves. With their new found nakedness, they waved their liberated skeleton to and fro in ghoulish manners.
The candle she had lit flickered brightly at times, weakly at others, as it struggled to sustain itself. As the flame took deeper hold on the wick, the candle’s paraffin wax began melting into hot drips that gave off the sweet smell of cinnamon. With the torch now securely sheltered inside the gourd, its heat quickly grew vertically only to begin burning the flesh at the very top of the pumpkin, adding an aroma of freshly baked pumpkin pie which then mixed with the cinnamon of the candle’s scent.
The old woman had just lit a second candle when her husband peered out from the doorway, then ambling out onto the front porch saying, “Why do you even bother with that nonsense? Every year with this stuff… Do you enjoy punishing yourself or something? Come back inside. We’ll turn out the lights, and forget all about this stupid holiday.”
The old woman breathed a heavy sigh and went on about her business of lighting each of the jack-o’-lanterns, ignoring her husband, and blocking his criticisms out of her mind.
After the fifth and final gleaming face was aglow, the old woman went back into her home to gather her sweater just as the streetlamps came to life sending their yellow iridescent light out into the world.
The casting of the dim, mellow light created eerie shadows on the roadway that impressionable young minds would soon surely come to think would be hiding a troll, goblin, ghosts, vampires, all kinds of ghouls, and of course dreaded kidnappers. All of these monsters were possibly lurking on this night, the one night of the year when the impossible, the unthinkable, became possible. The day the dead were supposedly believed to be allowed to come back and walk among the living, Halloween night.
“Ayah,” one of the jack-o’-lantern yawned as if awakening from a deep slumber. “Yuk, is that cinnamon I taste? Oh, I hate cinnamon, why do I always get stuck with cinnamon?” he complained.
“Is that you Murray?” asked another one of the pumpkins.
“Yes, Ally. It’s me.”
“Stuck with cinnamon again, are you?” she giggled. “Oh, how you always hated cinnamon.”
“Third year in a row, I swear she does it on purpose just to irritate me,” Murray whined while doing his best to ameliorate the bad taste stuck in his mouth by sucking in large gulps of the cold fall air. With the influx of oxygen, his candle’s flame twitched and burned even brighter, hotter, causing his head to fill even more with the pungent odor of freshly ground cinnamon sticks.
“Well, I got sour apple this year,” said Ally while a warm glow emerged from deep within her core and shimmered outward making her carved out eyes twinkle. “Oh, how I love the smell of it, I wish it could last for the entire year,” she then added as the soft light helped to perfectly contour the corners of her smile which only made her look even more mirthful than she already was, and she was very mirthful.
“What are you guys talking about?” a voice called out. “You didn’t start without me did you?”
“Henry, is that you?” asked Ally.
“Yes, it is I,” replied Henry.
“Hello, Henry,” Murray said with a touch of sourness in his voice.
“Oh my, Murray, I didn’t recognize you, not with all those bumps and warts covering your face like that,” Henry snickered back in a playfully sarcastic tone. “I guess she picked the perfect one out for you this year. It fits your personality like a glove, cranky and wretched.”
“Yes, well… we can’t all be a smiling little princess like Ally here, believing that the world is full of cookie making elves and unicorns with rainbows shooting out their bum.”
“Henry, did you overhear that Murray got stuck with cinnamon yet again?” Ally said giggling at the notion for a second time.
“Why yes, I did,” Henry quipped. “Third year in a row isn’t it, Murray? That’s wonderfully fantastic! You having always hated cinnamon and getting stuck with it yet again, couldn’t have happened to a bigger jerk.”
“You know, Henry,” Murray responded with derision in his voice. “You should consider yourself lucky I don’t have arms, or I would berate you like I used to. Do you remember, Henry, how I would beat you senseless just for the fun of it?”
“Yes, well, all in the past now, isn’t it?”
“Henry, what kind of candle did you get this year?” asked Ally.
“Oh, I do believe its banana, or some other type of tropical plantain.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” Ally said cheerfully. “I remember how we would always have a banana packed in our lunches every day. They were so good. Oh, how I do miss them. You know who used to love them? April. Oh, how she used to beg us all for ours. I swear, she would’ve sold her soul to you if you had a banana to give her.”
“Yes, well, April was always a rather rambunctious child, always taking everything to the extremes,” stated Henry. “Speaking of April, is she here yet?” he then asked as he was placed just slightly on enough of an angle to make it difficult for him to see April who was in line right next to him.
“Yes, Henry, I’m here,” answered April.
“Oh, April,” rejoiced Ally, her flame flickering and giving off a wavering light which made her look as if her eyes were darting back and forth. “Have you been with us long? We were just talking about you.”
“I’ve been here, but for only a few minutes,” responded April. “I hadn’t realized my candle was lit until just now, but I have been here long enough to hear that Murray got stuck with cinnamon again, couldn’t have happened to a bigger prick.”
“That’s what I said,” proclaimed Henry enthusiastically.
“All right, all right, already,” Murray huffed. “If you two don’t knock it off with calling me a male phallic, I’m going to blow out both of your candles and be done with the two of you for another year.”
“Okay, okay, calm down Murray,” April stated.
“April, was Tilly with you?” asked Ally.
“Yiim ear,” responded Tilly in her small elfin like voice, her speech having been slurred on account of the old woman having carved her face upside down.
“Oh, Tilly… Are you all right?” asked Ally as she tried desperately to control her laughter. “You sound positively drunk. Are you going to be talking that way all night?”
“Aye ope n-not. B-But th-years n-not mutch Ay-an-doo.”
“Well, you sound positively silly,” April quipped will also cracking a giggle. “But then again, you were always the silly one, weren’t you? I suppose that’s why she carved you out that way.”
“mmyeehbe,” responded Tilly.
“What type of candle did you get this year, Tilly?” asked Ally.
“Ay tink wawamelun,” Tilly stammered.
“All right, all right now!” shouted Murray. “Ally, that’s enough with the candles. You’re obsessed with the candles.”
“Oh, shut it, Murray!” Ally snapped back. “You just got your panties in a bunch because you got cinnamon again.”
“Ah-ha,” giggled Tilly. “Ats tree ears inn ah r-oh.”
“Ats tree ears inn ah roh,” Murray repeated mocking Tilly. “At least I don’t sound like I’ve got a mouthful of marbles. Are we going to have to listen to her talk like this all night? I won’t be able to bear it.”
“Ay’mm oohing ma bess,” answered Tilly.
“WHAT?” Murray demanded.
“She says she’s doing her best, Murray, now leave her alone,” April said coming to Tilly’s aid.
The old woman suddenly came back out on the porch with a large bowl filled with candy—miniature Snickers bars, M&M’s, Butterfingers, Twizzlers, and Mounds could be seen all mixed throughout. She then set the bowl on the porch railing where the jack-o’-lanterns sat holding their silence until she went back inside the house.
“Mounds bar Yuk!” Murray grumbled. “They still make those?”
“I rather like them,” said Ally.
“Ay ikem tuu,” Tilly agreed.
“I thought I told you to be quiet, Tilly,” chided Murray.
“Oh, knock it off, Murray,” April chided, as she tried sticking up for Tilly again. “You don’t need to be so mean to her. You were always so mean to her.”
“Why don’t we just start the stories,” added Henry.
“How can we get on with the stories, you twit,” berated Murray. “There not even any trick-or-treaters yet.”
“You don’t always have to be so mean, Murray,” said Ally clearly also irritated by Murray’s boorishness.
“You don’t always—,” Murray began.
“Shut up, shut up, they’re coming back,” April said, interrupting Murray after she saw that the old man and the old woman was exiting the house and coming out on the porch. As they neared, the old man could still clearly be heard continuing on with his complaints about the old woman’s insistence on celebrating the holiday.
“Why do you even bother with all this?” the old man griped in a frustrated voice. “Everything you put up, you’re going to have to take down and put away again. All that work for nothing. And, all these kids will be coming here onto our property. You know one of them will surely trip and fall over their own two feet, and then we’ll be facing a lawsuit. You know I’m right. That’s all these people do nowadays is sue each other over everything, even when it’s their own brats fault for not being able to walk properly.”
“Oh, will you knock it off already?” the old woman said shaking her head at the old man. “That’s all you ever do anymore is piss and moan. It’s only one day a year and I like to see the children all dressed up in their costumes. They’re so cute, the little ones.”
Ally laughed a little when she heard the old woman giving it to the old man, and then she uttered, “Go get’em, that old grump,” in a whisper low enough so that the old couple wouldn’t hear her.
“Shut up, you moron,” mumbled Murray under his breath. “You’re going to get us caught, and then will have to leave.”
At the end of the yard, not far from the street, the old man struggled to get his old legs up a step stool he had haphazardly placed on an immense tree root that shot out from a mammoth maple. Once shakily standing atop the highest step while weakly holding onto one of the trees branch’s with a frail hand, the old woman then handed him a cartoonish looking bat that hung from a string. The bat had bright green googly eyes and a playfully wide smile. When the old man turned on a switch hidden on its bottom the bat began shaking vigorously giving off a little dance as it dangled from its thread. As the bat cavorted, it emanated a spooky “wooooo,” meant to scare little children into the spirit of the holiday.
“Oh, look,” proclaimed the old woman. “I think I see a few of the children coming down the street already. It looks like they’re already starting.”
“I don’t want them on my property,” the old man groaned as he got down from the stool somewhat wobbly. “I just know one of them is going to hurt themselves on that crack in the driveway, and they’ll walk right through the flower beds to get to the next house instead of walking around the yard using the sidewalk like they’re supposed to do.”
“Oh, all right then, you old fart!” the old woman snapped at the old man dismissively. “Go and get a couple of chairs from the garage and we’ll sit at the end of the driveway and pass out the candy from there.”
“We’ll pass out the candy?” objected the old man. “Why do I have to stay out here, passing out candy? It’s cold out.”
The old woman just gave her husband a dour look. With it, the old man then acceded to her wishes letting out a labored shrug before heading off to the garage to retrieve the lawn chairs she had asked for along with a blanket large enough for the two of them.
It wasn’t long until the first of the children made their way down the street to the old couple’s house. The sounds of their young voices shouting trick-or-treat quickly beginning to fill the cool autumn air.
The old woman and the old man settled in snugly close to one another, sharing the blanket near the edge of the driveway, the old woman with the bowl of candy in her lap.
“It’s getting pretty dark, and it seems that there is a fair amount of trick-or-treaters out now, so why don’t we begin?” suggested Murray. “Whose turn is it to go first anyways?”
“Ay ink is myine,” answered Tilly.
“No! No!” shouted Murray at the very thought of Tilly telling a story. “I won’t be able to take listening to you butcher a story the way you sound—No Way.”
“Ura yierk,” countered Tilly.
“Yes, well… too ba,”” rebuffed Murray.
“Why don’t you go first this year, Henry?” asked April. “I’ve always liked your stories, they’re so interesting.”
“Alright,” answered Henry. Then his candle suddenly began burning brightly as if he had willed it to do so, and it soon wafted the scent of banana into the air that lingered. “Who will pick for me?”
“I shall pick for you,” Murray replied answering for everyone. “Now let’s see…,” he then said as he gazed out into the yards and street at the different groups of trick-or-treaters. “Army guy, no… Cowboy, no… Bloody doctor, no… Vampire, no…”
“Do the vampire!” April called out enthusiastically. “I would love to hear a story about a vampire.”
“No! No…,” said Murray. “It’s my pick, so I get to choose.”
“Well, pick one already,” said Ally impatiently.
“Yeaah!” Tilly concurred.
“Okay, okay, already. Ahhh… here we are, a princess, perfect for you, Henry,” Murray said snickering.
“Ha, you don’t think I can do a story about a princess, do ya?” Henry countered. “Well, prepare to look foolish, Murray, even more than you already do.”
Henry wasted no time going into his story.
Her name is Erin, and her story doesn’t begin tonight. Her story actually began a week ago while she was sitting on her bed. It was her birthday, and she had just turned seven. She was busy going through the contents of an old shoe box, and she was crying. In her hand she held a photograph of her and her mother, they were in their backyard next to a rose garden, and her mother had her arms around her, holding her tightly. Erin remembered every moment of that day. How the sunlight warmed her skin, the sweet smell of honeysuckle in the air, the rhythmical buzzing of a humming bird’s wings that had flown into the yard only fleetingly right before her father had taken the picture. That day was two years ago now, and seventeen months before ovarian cancer had taken her mother.
Erin wiped her eyes with the palms of her hands and then blotted them dry on her bed sheets. She then reached into the box, pulling out a dried up withered rose, careful to hold it delicately so none of its pedals broke off the stem. The rose had come from the rose garden in the backyard, picked personally by Erin herself, to be placed on her mother’s casket at the funeral. Erin situated the flower on the bed next to the picture and then continued to pull more items from the box. There was a locket Erin’s mother had given her. At the time when Erin’s mother had bequeathed it to her, she said that she was right around the same age Erin was then when her mother had given it to her. There was also a ticket stub from the time they went to the circus and the both of them had gotten their faces painted to make them look like a couple of clowns. And, at the bottom of the box was a ribbon Erin’s mother used to wear in her hair. It still smelled somewhat like her.
“Hey, sweetheart,” Erin’s father said as he stood in the doorway, peering into the room. “What’s the matter, why are you crying?” he asked her in a soft voice, but then noticed the box and Erin’s picture of her with her mother that lay inside. He sat down next to her on the bed. “You really miss her, huh?”
“Yeah,” Erin said, wiping her runny nose with the back of her hand. “It’s not fair.”
“I know, I know,” her father told her as he held her. “Hey, what do you say we go to the store and pick out your Halloween costume? You’ve always loved Halloween; it might make you feel better to get out of the house for a while.”
About the Author:
About me? I’m a book fanatic, love to write and being in the forest. Peace and quiet may very well be my favorite things on earth. I also have a dog Tipper, who pees on everything and I don’t believe a word that people say if they have the moniker, “Expert” attach to their name. My goldfish, Milli, recently died. Burials at sea are always tough. And, I still haven’t ever been able to figure out how high is “up”? I know for a fact that it’s impossible to hate pizza and nachos. And, I also don’t know if I’ll ever truly get author bios. If, an author’s life was so interesting that people are dying to know about it, than why do you think we authors would spend all day writing fiction? Want to know anything else? Just ask, I’ll probably just be thinking about french fried potaters anyway. MMMM-HMM
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