Monday, August 4, 2008

Adept Tales 02 "Hallowicked"

Halloween was going to be great this year. It had to be. He’d spent months planing, buying decorations, building props and sets, developing costume ideas…preparing. Halloween was the only holiday Brandon liked. It was the one time of year when the unnoticed could be noticed. When it was okay to be different because, on that night, everyone was. Ever since he was 8 years old, he’d dreamt of having the prefect Halloween. In truth, it had been since then that he’d been planning this night. This night. The thought sent a shiver through him. All this time, and it was finally here.

He had the entire thing planned to a tee. He’d designed the set in the front yard to not only be scary, but to also be easy to put together so it could mysteriously materialize minutes before sundown. His costumes too were a combination of street cloths and elaborate yet easily adorned accessories designed to allow for quick changes depending on the situation and candy customer. These things were the easy part. The part that Brandon’s parents had agreed to. The part they even helped fund. The real trick was the haunted house. The haunted house was the corner stone of the entire plan. The costumes and yard make over where just window dressing. The real attraction was always the haunted house. Unfortunately, Brandon’s parents were not cooperative. “Do what ever you want to the yard, but leave the inside alone!” He’d spent years trying to convince them otherwise to no avail, but this year gave him a unique opportunity.

Brandon’s parents weren’t into Halloween the way he was. Mom’s holiday was Christmas; Dad’s, Thanksgiving. But even those they approached with lackadaisical enthusiasm. What that meant for Brandon was that his parents had never in his life gone to a holiday party of any kind. This year though, Dad started a new job at some multi-million dollar IT company. He managed to land a position that was just low enough on the totem poll to not be overly stressful, but high enough to be noticed if you don’t attend a company event. And lucky for Brandon, J.W. Technologies threw a huge Halloween party every year. Guess who was going.

What may seem to you as a sliver of an opening was the Grand Canyon for Brandon. He knew his parents well. Well enough to know they’d stay at the party till next to ending. Dad was always overly conscious of appearances and would stay and appear to have a great time until they started cleaning up. And if he really wanted to impress someone, he’d help clean up. He really wanted to impress these guys. By all accounts it was a great place to work, and the benefits he got blew any other employer out of the water. Oh yea, he’d stay. Brandon knew this with a reasonable amount of surety.

That gave him the house, but how to get it all ready in time? The party started at 6 p.m. but Dad would want to get there early, say 5 or 5:30, which only left Brandon a half-hour, hour max to set up. He’d been very careful to not tip his hand to his parents. He hadn’t told anyone about the haunted house, relying on the scenery to draw customers on the day of. He hadn’t wrote or sketched any of the details the way he had the front yard. He hadn’t even bought most of the supplies he needed yet. He knew if his parents caught wind of it they might not go or make him go with, and he couldn’t have that. He worked very hard to keep his parents overly aware of that which he was allowed to do and oblivious to that which he wasn’t.

At 4:30 Brandon sat impatiently in his room waiting for his parents to leave. Every few seconds he’d look at his watch or bedside clock, agonizing over each moment in anticipation of the event. He’d already bribed some neighborhood kids into setting up the yard for him, so all he had to worry about was the house. If they left when he hoped they would, he’d have just over an hour to get to the store, grab what he needed, get back and set up the inside before sundown. It seemed feasible to him. He knew exactly what he needed at the store and had been scoping it out for weeks, strategically planning his route to increase expedition. Timed on several occasions, he could get to the store, through his route and back home in 20 minutes. If everything went to plan, he’d have 40 minutes to get the haunt in the house. He could do that. If his schedule got thrown off though, he might be pushing it. If the line at the store was long, if there was traffic, if his parents didn’t leave till later…What time is it? Looking at the clock again, 4:31.

By 5 Brandon is worked up near to frenzy. Why are they still here? Leave already! He watched painstakingly as the moments ticked away. At 5:02 he’s pacing. Come on, come on. If you go now I’ll have time. 5:03. Shit, shit. I should have had a plan B. Why didn’t I develop a plan B? 5:04 and Brandon’s near tears. I can still do it but I won’t be ready at sundown. It won’t be perfect. All that planning. And what if they don’t go at all? So close, I was so—“Brandon hunny, we’re leaving. Have a good time tonight.”

Relief washed over him as he ran to his bedroom window to watch them drive away. As soon as they were around the corner he sprinted down the stairs and out to his beat up orange VW Bug. Maybe next year he’d paint it like a pumpkin like he’d always wanted to, but now wasn’t about the car. It was about the house. He sped away, giving a wave and a nod to the neighborhood kids to make sure they hadn’t forgotten their duties. As he hit the main street, luck continued to be with him; traffic was light. He made it to the store in record time. I’m going to make it! Excitement building, bubbling ever closer to the inevitability of his triumph.

The store too was on his side. Someone was pulling out as he pulled in so he got a close parking space. Everything he wanted was in stock and when he got to the register there was no line. With his cart full and his wallet empty he sped out to the parking lot. He was so focused on his plan and so excited for it’s completion that he almost didn’t see Johnny Landaus and Paul Murphy on their collision course with him. Almost. He looked up from the 5th inventory he’d done on the bags since leaving the register just in time to see them come a bow to his cart.

Paul stopped the cart with the menace typical of every high school bully, “Whatcha got here, Blandon?”

“Huh, huh, Blandon. Good one Paul.” Blandon? Was that Johnny and Paul’s idea of wit? What the hell does that even mean? That he’s bland? Is that even an insult? If so it’s not a very good one.

“Hey, I’m talking to you space case.” The menace level turned up a notch. Paul didn’t need to be witty. He was violent and that trumped witty in a fight.

“Supplies. It’s supplies. I’m putting together a haunted house.”

“A haunted house? Cool.” Johnny didn’t have wit or violence, but he did whatever Paul said and that was dangerous in a whole different way.

“A haunted house, huh? What, you got some strobe lights and fake skeletons so you can lure dudes into your bedroom?” To this Johnny laughed hysterically. At least he thought Paul was funny.

Normally Brandon would be intimidated by this situation, but he was too close to let a couple bullies snare him for long. “Right. I’d invite you guys, but you already have each other, right?" Johnny didn’t get the joke, but Paul did. Brandon watched as his face turned several shades of red and purple. He could feel more than see Paul’s muscles bunch for a punch.

“Everything ok out here?” Saved by the rent-a-cop. Paul’s muscles relaxed, but his eyes pierced into Brandon with a merciless fury. “I said is everything ok?”

With a smirk Brandon just couldn’t help he said, “Yea, everything’s fine. These guys were just leaving.” His eyes never left Paul’s, and he couldn’t help but feel like he was in a movie. He couldn’t believe this was happening. That he’d stood up to Paul and his boy toy. He felt like he could do anything in that moment.

“Right. Let’s get a move on then. You’re loitering.”

Paul backed off the cart as Brandon nodded to the rent-a-cop and continued to his car. When he fired up the engine and saw the time he was amazed. 5:11. Even with that episode he was somehow ahead of schedule. He really was going to make it.

When he pulled in front of his house he was pleased to see the neighborhood kids diligently at work setting up the yard. He smiled and tossed a bag of candy to one of them. This was part of the bribe. When he got inside he immediately got to work. With expert speed and precision he plotted out the course of the haunted house. Elements flew into place as the atmosphere of his home changed into an eerie, creaky, dark abode of horror. By 5:36 every thing was ready. 5:36? I still have a half-hour before show time! Secretly this is what he’s hoped for all along.

Since he had to keep the haunted house secret from his parents he hadn’t been able to do any promoting. And while the front yard did look awesome (the neighborhood kids did an excellent job setting up) he wasn’t sure it would be enough to get people into the haunted house. But now that he had extra time, he could hit the streets and drum up business. He designed a costume specifically for this task. Like everything, it was easy to put on, incorporating his regular cloths. After less then a minute he was adorned in the perfect approximation of an undead sideshow caller. Off he went down the street, announcing along the way, “Haunted House at sundown! Don’t miss the spectacle that will leave you in terror for years to come. Come on down, all ages welcome. No charge and candy for the kiddies at the back door. Haunted House at sundown!”

Time and excitement got away from him. He found that many of his neighbors were very interested in his haunted house, expressing their intent to attend. Soon the whole tract was abuzz. Brandon was elated. All his expectations were not only coming true, but also being exceeded. Only now he found himself blocks away from home with mere minutes till sundown.

He ran full tilt back to his street, fueled by pride and anticipation. When he got to his house, panting from the exertion, his heart dropped. No. Even in his head the word was filled with defeat and depression. The yard was destroyed. Decorations were torn down. Caskets smashed to splinters. Fake webbing burned and smoldering on the lawn alongside ripped open trash bags and their intestines. No! This time more forceful, more defiant. Brandon ran inside, threw open the door, No, no, no, no. Destroyed. Like vandals they’d come through and laid havoc. Spray paint across the faux-walls declaring “Fags this way” and other colorful comments. Decorations were broken, lights smashed. He had a moment to realize they’d only touched the decorations and none of the actual house before the rage broke over him.

Brandon wasn’t normally an angry person. Of all his years of being a zero, none of the bullying got to him too much. So, when the rage broke, it broke hard. “Noooo!” Years of frustration and anger spilled into that word, as the house seemed to vibrate from its force. He fell hard to his knees, slouching down nearly defeated. No. He couldn’t let them win. He’d worked too hard, too long to let those assholes beat him. He began hitting the floor in a steadily growing cadence aligned in his mind with No……, Nooo!” He smashed his fist into the vinyl wood grain floor and something broke over him. But it wasn’t rage this time. No, it was something new.

It was as if he could see everything at once; the front yard, the house in disarray, even himself kneeled on the ground. Then, a light bulb illuminated above his mind; he knew how to fix it. He could put it all back. Without knowing how, he reached out with his mind. He saw the front yard flow back into it’s decorated state. No, not back. Into a new state, a better one. The decorations looked real. Not just cardboard headstones, but real marble. The bones of the dead seemed to have real rotting flesh on their bones, and Brandon couldn’t be sure, but did the wings on that Gargoyle statue just flex?

The inside was next. He stood now in the eye of the storm as the house itself bent and reshaped. Decorations vanished, forgotten, as the walls themselves became the scenery. Ghouls and goblins were released from his mind to wonder the halls, waiting for their prey. Each room was transformed into a different nightmare, each door leading to a new discovery of horror. This was how he really imagined it. Not the shell mock up he had done earlier, but this. Something so near to real that anyone would be convinced they had crossed into Hell. He marveled now at what he had done, still not sure how he had done it. A smile played on his face though, as he stood unafraid in the construct of this new power.

The doorbell chiming pulled him away from his amazement. Outside, just as the sun was setting was a line of people waiting to be let in. Many more were milling around the yard, amazed by the decorations. Brandon heard one of the neighborhood kids say, “We helped put it together. Cool huh?” Brandon had to smile at that. Really they hadn’t done any of this, but he’d let them have their moment. After all, they had done a great job before it was destroyed.

Just as he was about to let the first group in, Johnny and Paul came pushing through the crowd. “What the shit is this?” Paul did not look happy.

“I told you I was having a Haunted House. You didn’t believe me?”

“But we destr—err, I mean, oh yea. I forgot.” He must have noticed Officer Brown, the neighborhood cop. “So, you gonna let us in or what?”

“Sure. Right this way.” As the door closed the people outside could hear the boys’ scream, terrifying and thrilling them at the same time. Some even got out of line, but most stayed.

Soon after, Brandon returned and began taking more groups in. Each was treated to a haunting experience that seemed to vary greatly with each individual telling. Kids experienced an almost joyful tour that left them fearful but not crying. Couples were scared into each other’s arms. The kids from Brandon’s school walked through a maze of terror reminiscent of the kinds of horrors they’d come to expect from the movies of the day. No matter what they saw, each guest exited safely at the back of the house where the kids were treated to handfuls of candy. Adults too if they wanted. All exited except Johnny and Paul that is.

All through the night people claimed they could still hear the boys screaming. That they must have ran home after getting out. How embarrassing to scream like such a little girl when you act so big and bad. No one questioned where they were, but all laughed at how they must have pissed themselves to make a noise such as that. As the night wound down and people went home, Brandon too could hear the screams of Johnny and Paul. He smiled at their terror. I guess I’ll have to let them out soon. Darn.

There was a knock at the door. Brandon hadn’t expected any more people. Time was getting short. Mom and Dad would be home soonish, but he was game to let one more group through. Waiting on the other side of the door was a man and a woman. They were dressed up like old style detectives, except the woman was more Victorian, if that makes sense. “And what are you guys supposed to be?”

The man flashed a badge and said in a friendly tone, “We’re from Sage. I’m Agent Ham, this is Special Agent Fury.”

Um, ok. What’s Sage?” Paul screamed loud and long. The kind of scream that lets you know someone is being ripped open with a dull knife. Special Agent Fury became alert, looking past Brandon into the house, trying to see who had screamed. “Oh don’t worry about them. They’re fine. Nothing can hurt them in here. It’s only a haunted house after all.”

Agent Ham’s expression and tone never changed. “Fun’s over Brandon. Let em out. Then we have some things to discuss. Hurry too cause your parents are on their way home.” The two walked inside, pushing past Brandon, making themselves at home.

“Hey, how’d you know my name?” Brandon closed the door as the two strangers prepared to open one to a whole new world for him.



The Great Chick said...

holy crap. that was awesome!

Myndtrip said...'re gonna make me blush