Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Night of the Cauldron: Part V, The Bone Chimes

Night of the Cauldron
Part V
The Bones Chimes

Theo walked along behind his brother and sister.  Martin and Stacey rushed up the sidewalk to the next house for another batch of candy.  They giggled as they ran.  Stacey was dressed as a bright sunflower and Martin was the Red Power Ranger.  They disappeared behind a large framework of orange lights in the shape of a Jack O Lantern.  He heard them yell "Trick or Treat!" followed by laughter.

Theo sighed.  He wore no costume of his own, embracing the designation of adult for the evening.  He had planned to dress as Batman, but he had also planned a different Halloween night altogether.  Just before sunset, his mother had thrown him the wrench.

"You've got to take Martin and Stacey Trick or treating Theo.  I'm sorry, I know it sucks, but they called me into work."

"Mom, I had plans!  I was going over to the McConnell Farm party with Bill!"

"We need the money right now sweetheart.  I'd call aunt Aleesa, but she's in Kingsport all week.  Please.  I'll make it up to you next week, okay.  I have to go.  I love you, sweetie.  Thank you so much."  She'd kissed him on the forehead and rushed out the door.  Just like that his Halloween was a wash.

The kids returned to his side breathless and smiling. "Check it out!  We cleaned up!  They had chocolate!"  Martin yelled.  He smiled back in spite of himself.

"Where to now O' trick or treaters?  Lead the way!"  He chanted, pushing them before him, "Onward to Candy Mountain!"  They all laughed.

The next house belonged to the Marsdens.  Stacey and Martin went to school with Gary, the youngest.  Their porch was decorated with a happy big toothed pumpkin and a string of orange lights.  As the three approached, a set of animated plastic bone chimes hidden further back on the porch activated.  The skull in the chimes screamed and cackled as its eyes glowed an unnatural purple.  The whole construct made a clanking sound that was meant to sound like bones hitting one to the other but came across more like someone hitting a wooden spoon against a mop bucket.  Theo rolled his eyes and knocked at the door.

"Happy Halloween!"  Mrs. Marsden came to the door green with several teeth blacked out.  She widened her brown eyes at them and cackled as she greeted them.  She wore a black witch's hat and matching black gown.  Her fingers were covered with fake black nails and more green makeup.

"Trick or Treat!"  Stacey and Martin exclaimed.

"Oh lookie!  Delicious children!"  She cackled and made a mock attack with her pointed fingers.  Martin and Stacey both screamed and giggled.  "Come inside!"

Gary, dressed as an astronaut, came rushing up.  "Hey guys!  My Dad's dressed as a Mummy! Come see!"  They all squealed and ran further back into the house.

Theo lingered in the doorway.  "I'm gonna hang outside a minute Mrs. Marsden."  He made a motion as if he were putting a cigarette in his mouth and she nodded in agreement.  Mrs. Marsden smoked as well so he knew she wouldn't tell his mom.   She followed the children towards the back of the house as he pulled the door to.  He could hear their screams and laughter from the back of the house.  As he crossed the porch again the bone chimes cackled again and made their spoon and bucket noise.

He stepped to the curb and lit up.  He took a long draw and pulled out his phone to call Bill.

"Hey man."

"Where you at man?  I'm already wasted."

"I'm not gonna make it man.  My mom saddled me with trick or treating the munchkins."

"What?!?  No shit man."

"Yeah.  She had to go into work and Aunt Aleese is in fucking Kingsport."

"Man that sucks."

"You're telling me."

A tiny Spiderman and a pirate girl passed him followed by a woman dressed as Marge Simpson.  He heard the cackle, spoon, and bucket followed by "Trick or Treat!"

"Maybe I can slip out later after they're in bed."

"It'll all be over by then man."

"Damn it.  Story of my fuckin' life."

"Can I call you back in five?"  Call you back in five was Bill's way of getting out of uncomfortable conversations.  Theo knew that Bill wouldn't call and that his Halloween was officially irrevocably screwed.

"Sure.  Catch you later."  He took a long draw and blew out thick frustrated clouds.  At least there was his good friend nicotine.  A tiny red haired witch and a furry grey mouse passed him.  Cackle, spoon, bucket, trick or treat!

The sun had set and the trees stood in stark contrast to the fading sky.  He watched his smoke disappear into it.  Suddenly there was a deep rumble and the ground beneath him shook violently.  The rumble echoed slightly and he heard a car alarm go off.  He could see a green glow several streets over and assumed someone was shooting fireworks.  Cackle, spoon, bucket.

"At least someone is having fun."  He drew on his cigarette and sat on the curb to watch the show.  Soon the green began growing higher and that end of the sky flared bright.  A column of flame rose above the trees, twisting and sending sparks in many directions.  The trees around the column reflected, becoming pointed neon shapes against the darkened sky.  A light breeze kicked up, tossing leaves across the roadway.  He took a draw.  Cackle, spoon, bucket.

The column eventually began to flatten at the top and took on a tornado shape.  He'd never seen such a singular fireworks display.  He wondered if maybe someone had lost control of their toys and what he was seeing was someone's house burning.  His stomach sunk a little.  A fine green mist began descending over the yard and street.  Cackle, spoon, bucket. 

He stamped out his cigarette and stood up.  As he dusted himself off he noticed that despite the mist, he didn't smell any burning.  However, he didn't like the look of it.  Perhaps he and the kids would go to a different neighborhood next.  The green mist was quickly becoming fog.  Maybe he'd get Mrs. Marsden to call the fire department when he got in.  Theo heard someone scream from the street between him and the fireworks and started.  He'd grown used to the playful screams he'd heard all night with the kids, but this had an edge to it that made his hair stand on end.  He turned, listening.

When he was a child, Theo had seen a woman break down inside a haunted house.  She'd looked like a cornered animal pacing, her eyes wide and staring.  He was small then and tried to escape into his mother's embrace, but the cramped space of the haunt did not allow for it.  The woman was breathing heavy and making sporadic ragged screams.  She was eventually helped out of the building by paramedics, but for thirty minutes he was trapped with the screaming woman.  Since then, he'd never cared much for haunted houses or ghost trails.

The screamer had grown silent but Theo saw something moving on the roof of the house across the street.  Backlit by the green, a shadow climbed over the edge of the house.  It moved easily across the roof on all fours then disappeared over the apex of the house and was gone.  Theo blinked, not sure of his eyes.  The screamer returned.  This time closer followed by what sounded like a dog growling.   He moved quickly towards the house.

As Theo approached the porch he noticed that the happy pumpkin was gone and the string of lights had been torn loose from the porch railing.   The string of lights were trailing back and into the open door, unplugged and dark.  He moved slowly towards the door.  The door rocked gently back and forth in the breeze.

"Mrs. Marsden?"  As he stepped up to the porch he realized the chimes were missing as well.  Theo opened the door all the way.  He could hear an indistinct mumbling as he stepped into the living room.  The room was lit with a string of lights similar to what had been on the front porch.  A strobe light flared from further down the hallway.

The candy bowl had been knocked over, its contents strewn across the floor.  A small table at the end of the couch had been upended as well.  There was a dark stain in the middle of the room that made Theo nervous, but in the orange light he could not tell what it was.

In the far corner of the room there was a large bundle that was covered in what appeared to be cotton candy.  As Theo watched, something moved within the shape.  The mumbling seemed to be coming from the bundle.  He stepped closer.  As he did, the mumbling became consistent and louder.

Near the top of the bundle shape a small section was open, exposing something within.  Theo took several steps closer and looked into the exposed area.  Large brown eyes stared back at him.  They were bloodshot and wide with panic.  Where the cotton candy touched, the skin around the eyes pulled away, leaving raw bloody patches.  Theo recoiled.

Just then he heard Stacey scream from the back of the house.  He turned and ran, careening through the strobe room, through the kitchen, and out the back door.  On the back porch, he found Mr. Marsden face down, part of his arm was covered in the cotton candy material.  The mummy wrappings had been ripped away from his shoulder and there were two ragged puncture marks in his neck.  Dark lines poured down, forming a puddle beneath him.  Cackle, spoon, bucket.

"Stacey!  Martin!"  Theo whipped around.  He did not see the kids anywhere.    Cackle, spoon, bucket.

On the back wall of the house it came crawling down.  Its plastic feet made scraping noises as it moved.  Theo backed away.  Cackle, spoon, bucket.

Above it, under the edge of the roof and on the porch just beneath the thing, three small cocoons wiggled and made muffled screaming noises.

Cackle, spoon, bucket.

{8x5.89  Sharpie and Uni-ball Vision Elite Pen with color added in Adobe Photoshop}

Enjoy all the stories from Night of the Cauldron


Eddie said...

"Onward to Candy Mountain!"

Great moment there : )

Jesse Campbell said...

All apologies to Charlie the Unicorn. :-)

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