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Rated: E · Short Story · Holiday · #2203982
It was a Halloween night to be remembered.
09/23/19 Author's Newsletter editor's pick. Daily Writers Cramp Co-win. Prompt: about a Halloween decoration that comes to life.

“You know the story about how the little wooden puppet named Pinocchio came to life?” Gramps put down tonight’s storybook. The pages fluttered a moment with a life of their own, then closed. It was a spooky Halloween night with the wind howling outside. The old farmhouse talked back, creaking and groaning, shuddering with fear at the sound.

“I don’t care, Gramps. I am still mad. In the city, all the kids got to buy neat costumes and go ‘trick or treating’.”

Gramps studied his twisted and gnarled bony fingertips. A few years ago he would have shaped them into shadow animal figures coming alive on the bedroom walls, to the delight of this child. Now, arthritis had tied them up into knots. He spoke slowly letting his words sink in where they might do the most good, “Out here we don’t wear costumes or beg for candy. Why bother?”

Little five-year-old Andy Marshal’s pouting lips quivered a moment before turning from a frown into a yawn. “I’m still mad, Gramps. What’s better than that?” He snuggled down under his down-filled covers and closed himself up in them like he was the fluttering pages of a book.

“Why, on Halloween night all the magic in the world comes alive. What you dream does too, at least for a little while. That’s why we have ‘dream catchers’ hanging over our beds. We don’t want our spirits sucked out of our heads and put into some nightmare we’ve dreamed up until our souls figure out a way to get back home in our bodies.”

But the lad’s eyes had closed. His eyelids already twitched, underneath them Andy was seeing things that no-one had ever seen before. Gramps felt the young body jerk once from head to toe. He patted his grandson and murmured, “Good journeying. Be careful where you stop to visit.” He rose, turned off the bedroom light and closed the door.

The fireplace beckoned with its warmth. Gramps sat in his favorite rocker, watching the flames spit where they danced and their tongues licked, eating at the cedarwood logs. The little scarecrow boy he had been carving as a farmer’s Halloween gift for Andy grew a puff of smokey, ghostly breath.

It was too close to the lively flames. The heat was getting to it. Gramps’ foot nudged and twitched his creation further into the night's lurking shadows. His head bent. He slumbered into soft sawing snores.

Only the house and the wicked wind remained awake, talking to each other deep into the storm-tossed night. Rain wept on the window panes. Lightning flashed and roared. Under Andy’s bed, the air shivered as the boy’s spirit fled and hid there in the darkest corner, shaking in spite of itself.

The secret monsters lurking there in the stuff dreams are made of, circled, surrounded, closed in and the biggest, badest, most evil creepy-crawly ate and swallowed Andy’s soul in one gigantic bite. Andy’s dream catcher up above his bed, had fallen, tumbled, rolled, and lay flat on its face under a weeping window, unable to do its job protecting Andy.

In the other room, by the fireplace, the little wooden Halloween scarecrow stretched, flexed its limbs and looked about it. Straw hair shook away from no longer painted on blue eyes. A smile grew where carved lips had been.

Gramps had no dream catcher nearby to stop the magic transformation from occurring. He was his own Geppetto and blue fairy with his own wooden Pinocchio. The Halloween gift he’d meant to bestow on his grandson in the light of day had decided to visit a little earlier.

It was good that it did. From the bedroom, scuttling, crawling, scratching sounds bled across the floor. What had been a bunch of dust bunnies caught in the cracks under the bed tumbled together in a cold gust of wind and what had been a dreamed up nightmare monster came alive. Andy’s soul was caught and trapped inside.

Whatever evil deeds the monster fed on from Andy’s sleeping mind loomed large as the largest shadow floating overhead. The dust bunny of all dust bunny’s broke loose from the cracks holding it. Out onto the midnight floor, it tumbled free, hungry to find more than a flash of lightning or a rain-drenched, weeping window pane whose tears wanted in.

A mighty roll of thunder and the bedroom door shivered open. There stood the doll-sized scarecrow with no weapon at hand, facing the living nightmare of Andy’s dream tossed fevered imagination.

The storm broke and fled, leaving the dust bunny monster becoming a cloud of evil intent, threatening to swallow up Gramps and his scarecrow who weren’t scaring anything, much less a monster on All Hallow’s Eve.

It was all the little toy figure could do to duck as the dust bunny tumbled and jumped overhead. It kept going, rolling faster, drawn to the fireplace’s flames feasting there. “No, Don’t,” cried out Andy’s lost voice from his body separated from his soul. His arms and legs fought with his covers which refused to let him go.

Smoke then flame turned the dust bunny into a hovering, breathing ball of fire. It turned, glared at the defenseless scarecrow and meant to devour it then and there.

It was the haunted tears of the storm that came to the rescue. They found a crack in the ceiling, drops became a falling stream, a waterfall drenched the scarecrow as the fireball attacked. The dust bunny monster hissed a moment, then it was no more.

Andy’s fevered soul became a blush upon his cheeks and sank gratefully back home. In the morning a little wooden scarecrow lay on the pillow next to Andy’s opening eyes. “Gramps. You saved me.” The last fading images of the dream fled into day. Gramps shook himself awake. Two souls hugged as boy met the love where Gramps’ dreams went when they fell asleep. Halloween had fled for another year.
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