My wife purchased these strange plastic decorations.
|“Where did you get these?” I asked my wife as she handed me decorations that I’ve not seen before.
“At a kiosk at the mall,” was her answer.
“Interesting,” I mumbled as I stood and watched as she finished decorating the house, with plastic static cats and ghosts, witches hung by string, and for the first time since she stepped off the ladder and broke her foot, she strung orange lights on the porch.
Interesting wasn’t the correct word. Grotesque was more like it. Gargoyles with twisted faces, red eyes of evil, and skin that looked almost real. I felt one: Plastic but with the texture of dry skin. It made me shudder.
“Hand me the gargoyles,” Gail said, her hand outstretched on the small ladder. She had found the perfect place for the four, on the uppermost part of the front window.
“They’ll scare some kids,” she whispered, mostly to herself, as she peeled one off.
I could only shake my head. I didn’t think they would scare anyone, since they were more than likely be hidden, out of sight because of the overhang.
Halloween evening came and we had no troubles, no tricks played on us. We have a good reputation about handing the teenagers candy, allowed them to take handfuls of them as the local 8 PM curfew approached.
“It’s close enough,” my wife said. She directed me to turn off the light, a signal that we were done handing out candy. We settled into watching some mindlessly written movie on cable and enjoyed some leftover candy, confident that the trick-and-treaters were done for the night.
“What’s that?” she asked an hour later.
I shrugged my shoulders. I thought I heard a soft knock, as if a shy child knocked on the door. I ignored it and returned to watching the television.
A loud bang made us both jump. I walked to the door, turned on the light, and readied to tell the person that it’s after 8, curfew prohibits them from begging. I opened the door: No one was there.
“Who was there?” Gail asked. When I said no one, the confused look on her face told me much. “I heard feet on the porch, too,” she added.
I didn’t hear them. “Is it a little colder in here?” I asked.
“Yes, just a bit.”
“It’s windy, and the house does leak,” I told her. Gail agreed and grabbed the blanket. She cuddled up inside of it and continued to watch the movie. She fell asleep within a few minutes, and I turned off the tv to read.
I put Gail to bed by 11 and joined her. I had an early meeting in the morning and didn’t want to rely on caffeine to pay attention. After I made sure all the lights were off, the doors locked, the cats were not in the basement, I turned on the bedroom tv and settled in. The Science Channel played a program on abandoned locations. A strong breeze rattled the old windows, and I felt some of the chill enter. I turned off the light and scooted down.
I had forgotten about the knocks as I began to drift off. I wasn’t listening intently to the television as I began to slip off into Morpheus’ arms. I don’t remember what he sent to me, because I awoke with a start, the sound of a heavy knock startled me.
“What, what was that?” Gail asked. She sat up and turned on the bedroom light. I saw her eyes wide and imagined that her heartrate was like mine, going like a NASCAR Cup Chevrolet at Talladega in the draft, 210 MPH. She looked at me and was ready to ask something when two loud bangs came up the stairs. I felt the house shake when three poundings followed.
I grabbed my glasses and rolled out of bed. More poundings followed, the noise vibrating up my feet to my legs and back.
“Don’t go,” Gail said. She grabbed her cellphone and tried to call the police. “It’s dead. I can’t get any signal.”
“Boom, boom, boom, BOOM!”
I jumped on the last one, not ready for the strength behind the knock. “I’m going to find out what’s going on.” I left the bedroom and headed to the stairway. I turned on the light. I hit the landing and dodged the cats: both ran into the bedroom.
I took a step off and stopped. A new sound echoed up, like the ripping off a thousand papers followed by the breaking of hundreds of windows. I crouched, expecting to see glass fly from the living room. Nothing came.
I heard footfalls, more stone on stone than flesh or sole onto the carpet and hardwood. I softly walked down and saw a hideous sight.
It had a cat face, or an artist on LSD would believe was a cat. No whiskers, but there were feline features. The body was stout and squat, muscles chiseled out of black granite. More glass breaking followed by more stone footsteps. A demon-faced winged creature joined the cat. A third monster, another devil but without wings joined.
The front door bulged inward, testing the flexibility of the metal, then it relaxed, returned to form. The creatures sat steadfast, as if readying to defend against some unseen entity.
I heard something behind me and turned. Gail slipped out of the bed and her curiosity got the better of her. I waved to her to go back, to stay out of sight. She shook her head and slid down to me, wrapped her arms around me. A gasp escaped her lips; she must have seen the gargoyles.
“Trick or treat,” an unholy voice called out. “Trick or treat. I know you have candy for me.”
“Go away,” my wife cried out. The three creatures at the bottom of the stairs slowly turned and faced us. The winged devil slowly moved a hand to its mouth, a long stone finger touched its lips. Gail nodded quickly.
“Asher, you owe me candy,” that voice called out. “You said you’d give me candy whenever I wanted it.”
Gail whispered in my ear, “That thing outside knows you.”
I searched my memories, wanted to remember if I ever promised someone, something candy. I couldn’t.
“Asher, please, let me in.” The voice became softer, and it became familiar. I remembered.
Harry. Harold Bloom was a kid on the same floor as my brother Micah in the pediatric oncology ward 25 years ago. He was in a room across from my older brother, alone and afraid. His parents didn’t visit much, so I’d see him before visiting my brother.
It was the day before Halloween, and he was down some. He was afraid he’d not be able to go trick-or-treating. I promised him that I’d come up the next day and fill up his bucket with candy. When I left him, a nurse came and told me that he probably would not last the night.
As I talked about girls with my brother, Harry passed away as a nurse was talking with him. I cried.
“You promised,” Harry called out again. “We want some candy, the candy you promised.’
We? I looked at Gail and shook my head. We scared me. I felt a chilling breeze come up the stairs. I saw a boy’s hand come through the steel and unlock the door. When it withdrew, the knob turned. Slowly, the door opened.
The gargoyles moved slightly forward, ready for an attack. The winged creature stood upright and taller. The feline thing crouched like a cat ready to pounce on a mouse. The third stone thing took a step forward and opened the door completely.
“Asher,” the spirit of Harry began. He was enveloped in a white glow, a smile on his face, like the first time I met him. He took a step forward and the grin turned to an evil scowl.
“Why do you have these things? Asher, I just want candy.”
I looked at him and my heart sank. His spirit wanted to fulfil what I had promised him, wanted one last taste of sugar. I was ready to give him some when I saw that he was not alone, as he had said.
On his left stood another little boy, a few inches taller. This apparition was dressed in colonial clothing. On Harry’s right, a teenaged girl, a poodle skirt adorned her. Neither of the two had smiles. They looked angry.
“Give us candy,” Harry said. “Give us candy or we’ll have you join us”
I slowly shook my head. He closed his eyes and looked down.
“Join us,” he shouted. He looked at me, his eyes glowed fiery amber, the girl’s red, the boy’s the same. They floated inside.
The cat gargoyle swiped at the boy, sent it to the shoe stand. The girl came forward but the demon in front of her charged, sent both onto the porch.
“Candy,” Harry said once more before he attacked the winged devil. The two struck each other with a fist. A thunderous sound echoed into the house. It sent Gail back against a wall. I fell onto my back; my glasses flew from my face.
“Asher,” I heard Harry’s voice, no longer strong but like a pleading child. “Help me, please. I don’t want to go back.”
“What?” I asked.
“Asher,” he said again, but this time it was stronger. And, it no longer sounded like Harry’s.
With my glasses on, I saw that it was not Harold Bloom, but something else, an unearthly create with goat legs and the color of blood. The demon gargoyle growled, its voice drowning out anything the blood colored creature could say.
The two, locked in a combative grip, moved out of the house. The cat grabbed the boy and followed. A cold breeze flew at us, the smell of sulphur burned at our nostrils. Before I could speak, another breeze came, but from behind Gail and me. It went down the stairs, down to the door.
The white steel door slammed close. I heard the lock engage. I sat for a moment, my heart pounding, my mind confused.
“What the,” my wife started. She didn’t finish. She put her arms around me and held me tight.
“I haven’t a clue,” I answered her unasked question.
“Think it’s okay to go downstairs?”
I shrugged: I didn’t know. I stood and looked at my wife of 20 years, looked into her light brown eyes. I leaned in to kiss her.
And was almost knocked onto my butt. The cats ran past us and down the stairs, a sign it was safe. I followed them.
I expected to find a mess in the living, glass all over the place, the drapes ripped. I saw nothing. Gail pulled back the drapes and both of us stood slack jawed.
The gargoyles were there, but they were not in the same position as she had placed them.