A Short Story by:� Amy Auer
��� �It was nearing Halloween.
�� �Haunted houses were plentiful, along with haunted hay rides, corn mazes, and water vessels docked along the river.� Each and every one promising the same thing--to scare even the strongest of hearts.-Historic buildings already possessing paranormal activity would also be opening their doors to the festivities.
���� Seventeen-year old Shayne Montgomery was just finishing up his evening chores when he heard the strike of the dinner bell.� He tossed a bale of hay into the final horse stall and, stomach rumbling, galloped the distance from the barn to the tiny farmhouse.
���� Inside, nearly out of breath he brushed a black strand of hair from his forehead.� He washed up at the basin in the utility room and then sat down to a dinner of pot roast, oven-browned potatoes, carrots, and a still-warm loaf of French bread.
���� Dinner-normally filled with laughter and too much talk-was silent and tense.
���� It didn't go unnoticed.
���� �"Is something wrong Shayne?� You're awfully quiet tonight."� He looked up from his plate; his eyes were beginning to dampen.� Then, without warning he slammed both of his fists down hard on the wooden table and jumped up from his chair.
���� "Why didn't you tell us mom?"� He yelled.
���� "Tell you what?"� She stammered, appalled by his sudden outburst.
���� "That dad escaped from prison!"
���� "What!"� Chase-the youngest of the two-shrieked from across the table.�
���� "I'm sorry," she finally said after a brief hesitation "I didn't want you to worry."
���� "When did he escape?"� Chase asked quietly.
���� Ignoring her youngest son's question, she said "How did you find out Shayne?"
���� "I heard you talking about it to Aunt Sharon on the phone yesterday."
���� "Mom," Chase cried out "When did he escape?"� She could clearly see the tears dripping from his eyes.
���� "Just a couple of days ago."� She lied.� She didn't want them to worry; they were just kids for Gods sake.� And she wasn't about to tell them that he had escaped nearly a month ago.�
���� "Listen you two," she began "your father doesn't know where we live.� For that matter, he doesn't even know what state we're living in now.� He isn't going to find us…and if by chance he does, he'll be arrested and taken back to jail where he belongs. �
���� "He'll find us mom," Shayne murmured "He always does, and this time he'll probably kill you."
���� He was probably right, she thought.
��� She remembered the last time she took the kids and left.� They had been gone for nearly a week when she came home from work one night and found him sitting on her living room sofa armed with a hunting knife, waiting for her.
���� She'd been lucky…that time anyway.� She'd walked away with only one non-fatal stab wound and some bruises after the police knocked down the front door, arrested him and hauled him away.
���� "Well," she finally said "for tonight anyway, we're not going to worry about him.� Besides, it's almost Halloween and you two have been looking forward to it for a year.
���� "You promise he won't find us?"� Eleven year old Chase whispered.
���� "I promise."� She said.
���� "Now, let's eat before everything gets cold."
���� Although dinner was eaten in quiet, at least one dark cloud had been lifted from the room, she thought… even if it was only temporary.
���� "So," she started on a cheery note "have you two decided which haunted house you're going to venture into tonight?��� For the past year, she too had been looking forward to tonight.� And she sure as hell wasn't going to let her maniacal ex-husband ruin it for her, or for her boys.
���� "When I was at the store yesterday I heard Stephen telling Mitchell that there was a haunted ship on the river."� Shayne said.
���� "That sounds interesting.� Is it new this year?� I don't remember any ship last year."
��� "Yeah I think it is, anyway it's supposed to be really scary."
���� "That sounds like its right up your alley."� She laughed.
��� "Yeah.� He said that if you make it through the entire ship without having to be escorted out you get your money back."
���� "Well then, that shouldn't be a problem for you since you're not afraid of anything."
���� "Except for your dad."� She wanted to say, but didn't.
���� "Don't forget your brother is only eleven Shayne, and…"
���� "I'm not a chicken mom," Chase cut her off.� He was just as determined as Shayne to make it through the ship and get his money back.� It was twenty bucks after all!
���� Dinner ended on a happy note and no more mention of their father.
���� "Make sure you two dress warm, it's supposed to get chilly tonight."� Shayne watched his mom get up from the table.� He thought she was acting weird.
���� "Do you want help with the dishes?" He offered.
���� "No." she said almost too quickly
���� "Are you trying to get rid of us? ��He teased.
���� "Of course not."� She answered.� "Now go, and you two have a good time."
���� As soon as Shayne and Chase were out the door, Sara Montgomery let out a deep sigh of relief then ran her fingers through her dark-colored hair. ��She watched them from the kitchen window, through a gap she had made in the curtains.� The second they pulled out of the driveway, she picked up the phone and dialed.
����� The instant he answered, she felt her heart accelerate.
���� �Shayne had no trouble finding the attraction.� It was exactly where he'd heard Stephen telling Mitchell it would be; near the park, along the river.� There was only one park in town, so it didn't take a genius to figure out how to get there.
���� Shayne pulled into the paved lot.� He didn't have a problem finding a place to park.� Unless there was another lot to park in, theirs was the only car there. �They both stepped out of the car and into the heavy scent of crayfish; excitement was rushing through their blood.
���� "It looks like we're the first ones here."� Shayne announced.�
���� Although it was still fairly light outside, the river was dark and choppy.� It looked creepy, Shayne thought.
���� Off to the left, a roped off pathway was visible; obviously leading the way to the distant ship.
���� "No wonder we're the only ones here."� Chase cried out the moment he saw it "You have to walk a half-mile to get there!"
���� ��Up ahead in the distance, Shayne could see the gloomy ship bobbing on the water.� He couldn't shake the sudden feeling of uneasiness.
���� ��He took a deep breath and said, "Let's go."
���� Together at a snails pace, they both started walking up the haunted pathway towards the intimidating vessel.
���� It was decorated in a spooky sort of way, Chase thought.� It was lined with coffins and head stones, evil-faced jack-o-lanterns and skeletons.� Machines emitting mass amounts of fog into the air clouded the pathway, giving it a creepier atmosphere.
���� "This is cool!"� Chase laughed, "You think we'll make it through and get our money back?"
���� "I don't see why not, it's not like it real or anything."
���� When they were within fifty feet of the vessel, Shayne stopped dead in his tracks.� His heart began to beat rapidly against his chest.� His mouth gaped and his eyes widened in fear.� He felt the first beads of perspiration begin to chill his clammy skin.� Even in the distance the ship was massive and seemed to tower over them.� A stationary, menacing cloud of gray intensified the vessel, giving it an eerie appearance.� Instinctively, he grabbed his brother's arm and pulled.
���� "Wait!"� Shayne gasped.�
��� �"Oh my God, what is wrong with you?"� He'd nearly scared the crap out of him.� Chase jerked his arm free and slapped it over his racing heart.
���� "It doesn't even look like this place is open."� Shayne reasoned.
���� "You had to rip my arm out of its socket to tell me that?"�
���� "Sorry man.� Hey, let's go somewhere else" Shayne suggested "There's nobody here anyway."� He couldn't seem to shake the heavy weight that was leaden in the pit of his stomach.
���� Chase looked up at his older brother.� He saw the beads of sweat blanketing his forehead and he thought his face was beginning to pale.
���� "Oh my God!"� Chase laughed, slapping his hands against his knees "You're scared.� You're actually scared."� He couldn't stop laughing.� "You, who have every horror flick, know to mankind, is scared."
���� "I don't get scared, remember?" Shayne argued "I just have a bad feeling, that's all."� After a brief hesitation he said, "Maybe it's because of dad."
���� Chase thought about it for a minute, "Come on man, like mom said, he doesn't even know what state we're in.� Let's just go a little bit further and see if we see anyone."
���� Reluctantly, Shayne agreed, "all right, just a little bit farther and if we don't see anyone then we'll leave and go someplace else.� Deal?"
��� �"Deal."� Chase said, even though he knew he would be clearly disappointed if they had to leave.
���� They had made it another twenty feet or so when one of the fog machines seemed to go out of control.� It was releasing too much mist and made it nearly impossible to see where they were going.���
���� �"Do you think that was supposed to happen?"� Chase asked nervously.
���� "I hope so."� Shayne answered.
���� Once the fog began to fade, it was Chase that nearly ripped Shayne's arm out of its socket.
���� Without saying a word he looked up ahead of him.� Through the swirling mists of fog he could see a dark, shadowy figure slowly coming towards them.
���� "Let's go."� Chase begged.
���� "Yeah, lets."
���� Immediately they turned around to leave and walked straight into a six-foot gorilla.
���� Chase screamed.�
���� Shayne screamed louder.
���� "Welcome gentlemen."� The ape said.
���� Desperate to get away, they tried to walk past the gorilla.
���� "Not so fast boys."� The hairy creature draped either arm around their shoulder, turned them back around and led them towards the ship.
���� "This is the easy part," he said "The terror really begins when you go inside."
���� Shayne thought the voice sounded familiar.� It was severely muffled underneath the gorilla suit so it was hard to be absolutely certain.
���� The gorilla overpowered both of them and they had no choice but to allow themselves to be pushed up the wooden plank, and into the awaiting terror.
��� �"Good evening."�� A second voice said, the second they stepped inside.
���� Although they didn't see him, they jumped.
���� "Are you here for the tour?"� The figure dressed in black stepped in front of them.
���� Shayne looked up and nearly peed in his pants.� He was looking straight into the mask of death.
���� "Uh…actually…uh…we were just…"� The black figure cut him off mid-sentence with his powerful grip, and prodded them further inside.
���� "Enjoy yourselves." The gorilla said from behind.
���� God where do I know that voice from? �
���� Within seconds it hit him.�
���� It belonged to his dad!
���� Without hesitation Shayne turned around and the gorilla was gone.
���� Inside the massive ship a long table was occupied by several of Shayne's favorite monsters; Michael Meyers, Jason, Freddie Kruger.� Except for Leatherface-his absolute favorite-they were all there, seated as though they were waiting to be served a cup of tea.
���� Candlelight flickered in the gloomy room, casting lurking shadows on dripping, blood-red walls.
���� "We gotta get out of here."� Shayne whispered.� Protectively he reached for Chase's hand.
���� Seeing they were ready to go for the door and leave, Freddie Kruger jumped up from the table and abruptly blocked their exit.
���� "Join us for dinner?"� It wasn't a question.
���� His knife-fingers gripped both Shayne and Chase and he escorted them to two empty chairs then pushed them down.
� �����Something moved to the left of Shayne catching his attention.� Automatically he looked, and then wished he hadn't.�
���� He thought he might puke.�
���� She-at least he thought it was a she-was hideous.� Her hair hung halfway down her back and was matted in blood and grime.� Her skin was rotting and disfigured, some of it falling off, trailing behind her.� It was wet and dripping blood-tinged slime. �While one hand pushed a tainted cart burdened with silver platters, the other held onto her right leg that was grotesquely dragging behind her.
���� Once she managed to make it to the table, Shayne could see a milky-colored puss oozing from numerous open wounds and he nearly gagged.� Without saying a word, she placed the covered platters on the table.
���� "Dig in."� She ordered in a harsh, raspy voice, and then disappeared.
���� Chase looked at Shayne with worry in his face.� They both did as they were told and removed the lids from the platters of food before them.
���� "Ugh!"� Shayne yelled then dropped the lid, where it landed on the floor with a loud clank.
���� �Heaping mounds of what appeared to be dirt…or worse, was swarming with live maggots, worms, beetles, and other slimy creatures he couldn't identify. �Shayne's stomach was instantly sick with nausea and fear; he looked over at Chase and saw his tears dripping down his cheeks.�
���� Shayne closed his eyes.� "This isn't real." he whispered.��
���� When he opened his eyes the disgusting dish was still in front of him, crawling with repulsive bugs.
���� He sat motionless and watched in horror while Freddie, Michael, and Jason took a bite of the sickening muck.
���� The puss-oozing lady reappeared, managing another cart of silver platters.� She looked at the uneaten food.
���� "Not hungry?"� She was clearly satisfied to see the cold fear wash over both of the boys.
���� She looked around the table at the other monsters; each one looked up at her in return.� She gave a slight nod of her head and within seconds they peeled off their masks and screamed.
���� Shayne's heart plunged to his feet when he heard their yells.
���� "What the…?"� He muttered.�
���� While tears clouded his eyes, he looked around the table and saw that everyone was laughing.
���� The hideous lady bent down and gave them both a slimy kiss.
���� "Happy Halloween."� She said.
���� "Mom!"� Shayne screamed.
���� "Mom!"� Chase screamed at the same time.
���� "I'm sorry," she said "I couldn't resist giving you-who adores monsters-a good scare."
���� Shayne looked around the table.� Aunts and uncles were seated as well as several cousins.� Even Mike Shanahan-the sheriff-was in on it.
���� "I can't believe you actually did this mom, you don't even like Halloween."
���� "I like it now."� She laughed.
���� "Now, how about some real food?"
���� "We already ate dinner."� Chase managed to spit out.
���� "Yes, but you haven't had dessert."� She removed the platters from the cart and set them in the middle of the table.
����� "Would you like to do the honors Shayne?"
���� "Sure, I guess it can't be any worse than the last dish you served us."� He lifted the lid from the first platter and uncovered a pile of chocolate brownies.� The other platters revealed several homemade cookies, cupcakes and candies.� Then as if he had just remembered something he said, "Where's King Kong?"
���� "The guy in the gorilla suit.� He stopped us along the path and pushed us towards the ship after we told him we were leaving."
���� "Honey you must be mistaken, none of us dressed up like a gorilla."
���� Shayne's heart began to accelerate.
���� "Mom," he murmured "I think it may have been dad."
���� "What!"� She screamed.� "That's impossible."�
���� Or was it?� She wondered.
���� "When he was talking to us," Shayne began to explain "I thought his voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't be sure because it was muffled under the costume.� But now that I think about it, I'm almost certain it was him."
���� "Honey, I told you that your dad doesn't know where we are and not to worry about him.� He can't find us."
���� "Mom."� Chase stuttered.
���� Sara Montgomery looked at her youngest son and instantly saw his fear.� She followed his gaze.
�� ��She stood paralyzed, her heart frozen in her chest.�
���� Chad Montgomery stood in the doorway, his face unmasked. He glared at her with vengeance clearly on his mind.
���� "Oh my God."� She whispered.
���� Chad pushed into the room.
���� "I'm afraid your son was right Sara."
���� "Gary, what are you doing here?"� Mike asked.
���� Sara saw that Chad's hands were handcuffed behind his back and relief washed over her.
���� "Just doing my rounds at the park," Gary described "I saw him lurking in the trees nearby and stopped him.� As soon as I found out who he was I placed him under arrest."
���� "Good job, deputy.� Now get him out of here."
���� "Yes sir."
���� The rest of the evening went without incident.� Everyone joined in on the festivities, laughing and gorging themselves on homemade treats.
���� When the evening finally came to an end, Mike, Sara, Shayne and Chase walked to Mike's car.�
���� "So…were you scared?"� Sara asked her son.
���� "Naw."� Shayne said.� "I knew it was you the whole time."
���� Laughter filled the night, and together they drove away.