One Halloween Night

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A boy's Halloween party takes an unexpected turn.

Submitted: November 05, 2018

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Submitted: November 05, 2018

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irWe drove up to my grandparents’ place crammed unsafely into the station wagon as was the fashion in those days, four boys all around 9 years of age. My Grandfather was driving as was usual and my mother rode shotgun. The two dogs had claimed the back seat as we four had preferred the fold up seats that faced each other sideways across the back of the cargo area.

On the first part of the drive, we joked, and planned our costumes. Talked of glow-in the dark monster models and the movies they inhabited. We discussed which Dracula was the best, which werewolf looked too much like Elvis and whether of not Dracula’s son and daughter were his actual son or daughter or whether he had just bitten them as kids. And if that was the case did you grow up if you were bitten by a vampire as a child or remain young forever. This kind of talk naturally led to an nine year old’s view of what a monsters’ sex life might entail and our talk became more whispered, until after one too many snickers my mother turned to us and silenced the conversation with a withering look.

Silent now we looked out the windows at the trees and hills along the parkway now decked out in their Autumn finery. The afternoon was wearing on and the light was especially golden, creating sharp shafts that reached through the tangled tree branches to the ground. Once a deer bounded across the road ahead, and we could see it stop and look back at the road from the safety of the wood’s edge, but otherwise the rest of the trip passed with no further event of note.

When we turned off the road at the exit for Archet I felt the sensation, already old for my young self of returning home to the best loved place. While it was true that now I was living in the city with my mother, that house would never be loved the way I loved that rambling old farmhouse that now grew closer by the moment. For a few minutes we drove along the narrow country roads, up, down and around sharp tree covered hills, slowly climbing up the west side of the ridge that made up Archet mountain. Finally we turned down the half mile long road that led at its penultimate end to our farmhouse. At the turn was the lone great maple tree that stood in the corner of the first field, still covered in broken corn stalks. From one of its branches hung the weathered sign that proclaimed the name of our destination. We continued past the fields and into the tree lined avenue that twisted its way onward. And it was then there was a most delightful surprise. Suspended from the tree branches that reached over our heads across the road was a life-sized skeleton made of cardboard. He flapped jauntily in the late afternoon breeze, his features cheerfully sinister. We all laughed and pointed, in awe of the appropriateness of his appearance, and were equally pleased that we encountered two of his identical siblings as we continued along the road to the house. Inside the car I could see my Grandfather and mother smile at each other. A job well done… 

As we exited the car we were greeted warmly by my Nana and her Aunt who had come out to meet us. The dogs happy to be free after a long drive cavorted on the front lawn scattering carefully piled leaves, but no one really minded.

"Come inside boys." My Nana said after giving me a hug and kiss on the head. "We have made some nice snacks for you."

My mother and Aunt Jane exchanged wry looks. My grandmother had many qualities but cooking was not among them. I knew that any home made goodies that awaited us would have been made by my Aunt. And as we drew near the house the smell of fresh baked cookies was indeed in the air.

The inside was gaily decorated, the Kitchen where we always ate and the large dining room where we almost never did, had orange and black streamers twisted together hanging from the beams. Black and white posters of the Wolfman and Dracula with little glow in the dark stickers on their eyes were on the walls. On the closet door in the dining room a life sized Frankenstein monster printed on some plastic material gestured menacingly out at us. Autumnally colored cardboard cut outs of witches, cats, and pumpkin-headed men seemed to be everywhere. It all made me so happy I could hardly contain myself. My friends were pleased too I could tell by their exclamations of approval. Halloween was almost here and we would be ready.

That night after watching "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein", we went upstairs to the room the four of us would share. It was called the chicken room because of the odd wallpaper my Nana had put up which featured chickens in various poses on a burgundy background. There were two big double beds that were raised very high off the floor, as old farmhouse beds often are and two cots set next to them. There we unpacked our bags, made some final adjustments to our costumes and delved into the cardboard boxes filled with comic books that were stored under the bed. Issues of "House Of Mystery," "House of Secrets" and "The Witching Hour," were perused and discussed. We talked of which stories were the most frightening or funny until my Grandfather told us to shut out the light. In bed, in the darkness of the room, with only the moonlight for illumination we talked in whispers until one by one we nodded off. Asleep.

The next day was a busy blur. In the morning after a breakfast of buttermilk pancakes made by my Aunt we talked about plans for the day and more importantly the evening. At one o'clock some of my local friends would arrive for a small party. At four thirty we would be ferried into the little town of Archet for a round of trick or treating. We were ambitious and said we would stay out until ten. My grandfather surprisingly agreed, (he was a bit of a worry wort) but said he would be waiting at the drug store from eight on in case we got tired. We scoffed at the idea that such experienced Halloweeners would experience such fatigue. 

But he just smiled and said. "The town isn't that big boys. I'll be waiting when you are ready to call it quits."

After goofing around outside, playing fetch with the dogs and generally roughhousing we decided it was time to get ready.

Johnny Wolf, appropriately had decided to go as the Wolf Man and had a decent rubber mask that covered his whole head and a pair of furry gloves his mom had made for him. Toby was a mummy and also had found a decent rubber mask, but also wrapped himself in many, many gauze bandages that he had laboriously stained with tea. Ben had a store bought ghost costume which was pretty terrible except for the plastic skeleton mask which was striking in its design and odd day-glow colors. I was a vampire with glow-in-the-dark plastic fangs, that I loved but they made it very hard to speak and also caused you drool rather horribly. I had an old morning coat which was a bit too large, a cape and a top hat as well. This invariably brought up the sticky subject of vampires and hats.

"Dracula doesn't wear a hat." Johnny commented when my ensemble was complete.

"John Carradine does in House of Dracula." Replied Toby.

"Bela Lugosi is the real Dracula." Countered Johnny.

"I didn't say I was Dracula." I said a bit sheepishly. "Just a Vampire."

"With a hat?" Johnny asked. "Why with a hat?"

"You want to look like this guy, right?" Said Ben holding up a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland. It was a picture of Lon Chaney Sr. from London After Midnight which had in fact been my inspiration for my costume."

"Wow, that is creepy." Said Toby.

"Doesn't he have too many fangs to be a vampire?" Said Johnny still being argumentative. "I mean would he just shred someone's throat with those?"

"I hadn't thought of that…" I replied. "My fangs don't really look like that either.”

"It still looks cool." Said Ben. "But I think you need to darken the circles under your eyes. You don't look undead enough. And Johnny you need to something about your hair, when it sticks out from under your mask it makes you look like a dufus.

Johnny did indeed have a big head of very curly and seemingly uncontrollable red hair which did indeed escape from his mask at every opportunity. Further costume adjustments were made before the rest of the party arrived.

First to arrive were Jennifer and Billy. Billy jumped out of his mom's car already in full pirate mode, swinging a plastic cutlass, his face disguised by a penciled on mustache and felt eyepatch. Jennifer entered the scene already furious her face redder than her strawberry blonde hair. Her parents had forgotten her costume. My Aunt quickly whisked her away with promises of help. 

Melissa arrived next dressed as a gypsy complete with bangles and moon shaped earrings. "These are real." She said showing of the jewelry. "My grandmother brought them from the old country." We were all suitably impressed.

The afternoon was spent in a traditional way. We bobbed for apples both on a string hanging from a beam in the dining room and in a bug tub of water on the front lawn. There was a minor crisis when Melissa's make-up got ruined by the tub water and my mother had to come to the rescue and make emergency repairs. Jennifer returned proudly wearing an old but very well made tiger costume. It was a full cloth number with a plush tail, orange with white and black stripes boldly patterned. The mask was a half mask with big fuzzy tiger ears that stuck up over her head. 

"Look what your aunt found for me! Isn't this terrific?" She asked her smile wide and happy beneath the whiskers.

We were carving pumpkins when the last guest arrived. Sasha dressed as witch in all black with an enormous pointed hat and wielding and old fashioned broomstick.

We each made a Jack-O-Lantern with mixed results. I shouldn't brag but mine was the best, a devilish fellow with bushy eyebrows and a sharp toothed smile. Ben's was also very good with round frightened features and eyes that looked sideways. Jennifer's was in honor of her costume, a sharp fanged cat face complete with whiskers. The rest were standard variations on the triangle eyes, nose and jagged mouth that we are all familiar with. Still, when all were lit and their faces were glowing with soft candlelight they made quite the impression. Finally my grandfather brought out his masterpiece, a Jack-O-Lantern that captured the visage of the Frankenstein monster, the classic Karloff version in great detail. We were all oohs and aahs as this final pumpkin was lit in the lengthening afternoon shadows.

Now it was time to head to town to trick or treat and we piled into two cars and drove down into the town of Archet. It wasn't like it is now, with nearly every house festively decorated, strung with lights and festooned with friendly horrors. Most houses just had a simple Jack O’Lantern or two and maybe a cardboard witch or ghost stuck to the door. The adults released us into the wild like beasts long caged. Promises were asked for and grudgingly made about, unwrapped candy, apples and the crossing of streets. Then we were off. We would look to see if there was a lit Jack-O-Lantern on the porch or in a front window and that is how we knew which house would be amenable to our visit. Ringing doorbells and yelling trick or treat in unison when they were opened by mostly, smiling adults. In this fashion we filled our sacks and traveled east on Church Street until we finally reached the intersection with Main Street. There on the Southwest corner stood the Archet House which was decked out in real Halloween finery. The early eighteenth century inn had garlands of bats and pumpkins all along it upstairs balcony and along the covered porch that faced both streets. There had to be at least twenty carved pumpkin faces gleaming into the darkness, two life size scarecrows with huge Jack-O-Lantern heads guarded the front doors. Several members of the staff were stationed outside passing out bags of treats and cups of hot spiced cider that chased away the chill. After we got our cider, we sat down on an empty corner of the porch and rested our feet.

"This is the best Halloween ever!" Said Melissa inspecting her haul of treats.

"Mmmn." Jennifer agreed sipping her hot cider.

We all nodded in agreement as well but Johnny with his werewolf mask propped on the top of his head like a second face said. "Yeah, its great but I wish we could see something real…something real scary."

Toby who was trying to re wrap some errant bandages replied. "Like a real monster? First, there aren't any. Second, if there were you wouldn't want to meet them."

"I guess…" Johnny seemed unconvinced.

"Where next?" Asked Ben

"We do the rest of Church Street and then we go to the Moldawere house."

"Yes!" Said Jennifer they have the best treats and that place is truly the spookiest."

We all agreed and were off again. We continued East on Church street until the little town sidewalk ended and the houses grew too far apart our sacks now even fuller we turned north on Bower Street where the older Victorian houses stood. There were nearly a dozen of them some already grey weathered wrecks, perfect Halloween houses, there would be no treats there, but we hoped for a ghost or two. We continued along the street as it gently curved back towards Main, stopping at the houses that were still inhabited. 

"That one looks like the Munster's house."

"Nope, Addams family."

"Hill House!"

"Hill House was stone, that one's all wood."

"That house in Rhinebeck, that one really looks the Addams family house."

The argument was shelved when the Moldawere house came into view. It was the grandest of the old Victorian houses of Archet and had been recently restored. If the Archet house had been festive the Moldawere house took it to the next level. The pathway through the pine trees that led to the front door was lit with terra cotta skulls, candlelight winking from their eyes. The porches and windows were overwhelmed with Jack-O-Lanterns of all sizes and shapes and sizes. Orange lights were strung from the eaves, realistic bats bobbed from the tree branches but the best of all was a life sized headless horseman, horse and all guarding the path. Every year there was something new at this house, something better than the year before.

The horseman was impressive, in one hand he brandished a very real looking sword in the other he held a lit pumpkin with a sinister face. Even his horse's eyes glowed with a red light.

We examined him closely as we approached the front door and jumped when the horse suddenly seemed to snort, a jet of steam from both nostrils. We all jumped and there were a few shrieks of terror. No names will be mentioned. We started again as diabolical laughter erupted from the glowing pumpkin face, mocking our fears, but after a moment we joined in with relief.

The front door was already open, a group of children delighted with their loot passed us returning along the path back to the street. Against the light of the door a man stood smiling while a younger woman brought another bowl of treat bags out onto the porch. I recognized the man as Mr. Moldawere who not only owned this mansion, but the Archet House and the small book store on Main Street. Even at that age I could tell he was dressed smartly or at least more stylishly than was normal for the small town. He was of an undetermined age, his hair streaked with grey but features still mostly unwrinkled. I recognized the young woman with him as the clerk from his book store; but I did not know her name. Together they handed out colorful treat bags emblazoned with witches and cats to all of us. 

Mr Moldawere asked in each of us in turn about our costumes. Both he and the young lady admired the artistry of Toby's Mummy. He was again struggling with bandages that wouldn't stay wrapped. They complimented Melissa on her gypsy and Jennifer on her tiger outfit.

"Thanks Mr Moldawere!" Jenny beamed. "Your house is the best."

"You know young lady, in some parts of the world people change in to the big cats. They take the shape of Jaguars, leopards and yes, Tigers."

"Like werewolves?" She replied. "Except Tigers? Weretigers?"

"Exactly." Moldawere said " And you, young man." He was now addressing Johnny. "A werewolf yes? Admirable mask and very appropriate. Have you seen the moon?"

We all looked up in unison and there peeking through the pine trees was a full harvest moon. 

"Even a boy who is pure in heart…" began the young lady, whose name I later found out was Alice and we all finished the rhyme except Johnny who seemed flustered and was probably blushing under his mask.

"You know, actually werewolves could change their shape anytime they liked, day, night, full moon, new moon." Moldawere continued. "But the full moon was the time they liked the best." He paused and looked at me. "A Lon Chaney Vampire. The man in the beaver hat. Very original. I wonder if we will ever get to see that movie again."

"Thanks Mr Moldawere. It's not Halloween without a trip to your house."

He smiled and seemed genuinely flattered. After we had collected our loot we sat on he sidewalk just past the skull luminaries and examined the contents of our bags. As usual the bags from the Moldawere house were the best, containing full sized chocolate bars, candy corn and a small plastic toy monster. 

" I got the creature." Said Ben.

"Witch." Said Melissa.

"Yay! Mummy." Toby exclaimed.

"Werewolf, Wolfman… not Lon Chaney Jr though." Mused Johnny.

" I think he is from that one with Bela Lugosi. See he is wearing a suit and tie."

"What kind of werewolf wears a suit and tie." Jennifer commented.

"I got Dracula." I said very pleased at the tiny plastic Lugosi like figure.

Ben held up a green skeleton holding a bat. "I'm not sure what this is but I like it.

"Ooh Gorgo. She is my favorite." Jennifer said. Holding her prize.

"Gorgo is a girl?"

"Of course she is a girl. She is a mom." Jennifer said mildly irked by the question.

Bill was examining his Frankenstein Monster happily. "Franks the best."

Sasha held up her small plastic creature a puzzled look on her face. “Abominable Snowman?” She asked in a tentative voice.

“He looks like he is waving.” Said Melissa. “Hello, I’m here to gobble you up.” She continued in her most ‘monstery’ voice.

“That’s It.” Said Ben.

“It?” I replied. “You mean the golem guy who looks like a tree?”

“No, not him. It. It the terror from beyond space.”

“Oh, I remember that one.” Toby said. “I don't know why they said he was from ‘beyond space’ he was just a Martian monster.”

Sasha shrugged and tucked the little plastic alien into her sack.

We sat for a while longer munching on candy and talking while other groups of kids made their way to the Moldawere house. We laughed when we saw them startled by the Horseman's snorting horse as we had been. We decided we had had enough Trick or Treating and made our way back to the drugstore where my mother and grandfather waited sitting at the soda fountain counter sipping hot cocoa.

Back to the old farmhouse we went. It had been decided that everyone would stay the night and we were all eager to find some other outlet for Halloween fun.

"We didn't pull any pranks." Said Johnny, sounding vaguely disappointed in the back of the station wagon. 

"You can't trick if everyone treats." Said Melissa in a superior tone.

"There aren't any rules about Trick or Treat!" He replied laughing.

To which my grandfather answered without taking his eyes from the road. "There most certainly are and that is one." His voice was oddly serious. Melissa stuck her tongue out at Johnny, who pointedly ignored her.

Back at the house my Aunt had saved the best treat for last an applesauce cake, with buttery white icing and raisins. But this was a special cake for baked inside were tiny charms carefully placed so there would be one in every slice.

“This is like my mother’s Barm Brack but I think it tastes better. There are hidden fortunes inside. So be careful when you eat your piece.”

“You wrapped them in paper this time, Jane?” My grandfather asked glowering slightly.

“Of course.” Aunt Jane replied, completely ignoring the inherent disapproval in the comment.

“And no stick?” My mother added.

“No, no stick.” She was answered in a tone a little less sweet then was usual for my aunt.

“Kids just break your piece apart with your fingers to find your fortune so you don't eat it by mistake.” My grandfather added, after we had all been served a slice. My aunt rolled her eyes and left the table muttering something about ‘what fortune a child stupid enough to eat a wax paper covered charm would deserve.’

We all explored the innards of our slices of cake. Billy had a small brass ring in his piece and was mortified to learn that it meant he would soon be married. It didn't help matters that Jennifer his sister began asking him if he was going to propose to Sasha.

“They are nine year old Jane!” My grandmother said half annoyed, half amused.

“I got a coin. What does that mean?” Asked Toby.

“A prosperous life.” He was informed.

“And I got a key?” Sasha chimed in.

“You will come by property.”

“Ooh a house of my own.” Sasha was delighted but my Aunt just shrugged. She was a very sweet woman, but had an enigmatic quality to her. Something behind the eyes that was never shared.

Mine was a small medal with a pentacle emblazoned upon it. “I got a coin too.” I said and put it into my pocket. My Aunt looked at me and we both knew what I had drawn and what it really meant.

“I got a thimble? What the heck is that?” Melissa said.

But before my aunt could answer, my mother shot her a sharp look and said “A successful career dear.” Melissa seemed please by this but my mother hissed at my Aunt. “Jane, the thimble, seriously!”

“Its tradition.”

“Its mean and outmoded.”

“I got a heart.” Said Jennifer. 

“Then you will have a long happy life.”

“And I got a stick.” Said Ben.

My mother and grandmother turned to Jane and glared at her fiercely.

“Oh dear, that must have gotten in there by mistake.”

There was a moment of awkward silence and then my grandfather chimed in. “Its a walking stick. It means you will be well traveled.” He then shook his head and left the kitchen muttering to himself about ‘superstitious nonsense. 

“I got…a dog?” Johnny said a bit puzzled by his small silver charm. “Do I get a pet?” He asked excited, but the grown ups were now consumed by there own squabbles and he didn't get a satisfactory reply.

“I don't know Johnny…” Melissa said. “I don't think that’s a dog. It looks way more like a wolf. Let me see your palm.”

“Melissa you’re not a real gypsy…” Johnny said doubtfuly but still extended his hand.

“Actually on my mom’s side I am, partly. Let me see…” She appeared to study his hand intently for a moment and then whispered. “The Pentagram…the mark of the beast…” 

Johnny’s eyes went wide. “What?”

She smiled brightly. “Don't worry it just means you will be eaten by werewolves!”

Johnny snatched his hand away in annoyance as we all laughed.

After we ate we were shooed out of the kitchen and went out onto the front lawn. The Jack-O-Lanterns were still burning bright and there were lamps lit outside that lit up the fallen leaves with a golden glow. It was too soon to settle down and watch a movie. That was for later. We still wanted something more, some real Halloween something. 

“What should we do?”

“Ouija Board?”

“Nah.”

“Seance?” A lukewarm response.

“I know.” I heard myself say. “Lets hunt for monsters.”

We ventured out into the dark night, past the out buildings and away from the comforting lantern lights. We were armed with flashlights that cut through the dark casting their rings of light on the gravel driveway. The Barn loomed above us at the top of the hill a tall dark shape against the sky. We fancied we saw bats depart from the open hayloft door and take flight.

“Just like Dracula.” Said Toby.

“I don't think Dracula would live in an old barn.” Scoffed Ben.

The dirt road wound its was past the old barn with the meadow on on side and the wooded hills that rose up to Little Archet Mountain on the other. The moon was full and shone brightly and the avenue of trees that lined both sides of the road cast long shadows across it. The night was quiet except for the rustle of the breeze and our voices, excited whispers in the dark.

"Where does this road go?" Asked Toby.

"The old Fothergill place is where the road ends." I answered. "No one lives there all year round. Just Summertime." In my minds eye I imagined the farm cottage standing dark and empty in the hollow under Big Archet Mountain and repressed a shudder. We continued on the only sound now, that of the rapidly running water of the brook which ran alongside the road on the meadow side.

"What do you think we will see…out here in the dark." Asked Melissa.

"Probably nothing." Said Ben, ever the rationalist. "Maybe deer, or a raccoon?"

"No bears?" Asked Johnny.

"No bears on this side of the river since my dad was a kid." Said Billy. That seemed so long ago as to completely remove the possibility of bears.

"Mountain Lions?"

"Even longer ago, no wolves either in case you were about to ask."

"What about werewolves?" Asked Johnny half joking.

"I don't know about that." Said Bill. "There is the Archet Lake monster…"

"What is that?" Asked Jennifer who we all knew harbored a fascination with aquatic monsters. "Like the the Loch Ness Monster?"

"It's supposedly more like big foot or the Yeti." I answered.

"But why do they call it a lake monster?" Jennifer, clearly disappointed.

"I guess they just call it that, because it is always see it by the lake on the other side of the big mountain."

"I guess that makes sense…" She agreed grudgingly.

"I wish we could see a wolf or a werewolf." Said Johnny a wistful note in his voice.

"Are you nuts!" Said Toby laughing. "There is no such thing and if there was you wouldn't want to meet him."

"Johnny Wolf meets the Wolf Man." Melissa laughed.

Johnny seemed abashed but Jennifer interjected. "I think he means see from a safe distance." I think we all wondered what a safe distance from a werewolf would be.

We stopped for a moment where the creek crossed under the road through a culvert on its way down from the mountain. We gathered stones from the old gravel pit that stood just in on the slope side of the road. When we had found enough flat ones, we skipped them in the deep pool the creek made when it exited from the culvert. An old gnarled tree its roots partially exposed and reaching into the pool stood there facing us.

"Now that's a haunted looking tree." Said Melissa. "Look how those branches look like arms, arms with long clawed fingers."

"And the hollow in the trunk is its mouth." Said Toby.

"What's that!" Johnny exclaimed pointing past the tree into the broad meadow.

We all looked.

"What's what?" At least two of answered at once. There was nothing there we could see.

"Something was in the field. I saw it over there where the tree line starts."

"Just a deer I imagine." Said Bill, who as a local was more familiar with the animals that roamed this part of the Hudson Valley. "This is the time of night they are the most active."

"It looked like a person. You know, it was walking on two legs."

"Well I don't see anything now." I said. "Maybe just a trick of the light."

"I guess…" Johnny seemed unconvinced.

We continued on. The creek on the mountain side of the road had cut, over the years, a deep gorge, through which the water ran in an icy cold torrent. On the other side of the road an alder of young white birch trees stood, their thin trunks reached for the dark sky like skeletal fingers. Past the those trees was the pasture and then the wooded hills which had crept closer, encroaching on the open field. At first it just seemed like the wind rustling through the trees, but then a shock of birds shot into the night sky. The flapping of their wings and their calls filling for a few moments the stillness of the evening.

"Crows." Said Bill. "Here them caw?" 

But none of us had time to answer when out of the same part of the tree line, bounding out of the bushes and into the clear came, one, two, no, three deer. They dashed across the open ground and crossed the road not thirty feet ahead of us, a doe and two fawns. They didn't pause but leapt across the stream and disappeared into the woods on the opposite bank. For a few seconds we could hear them crashing through branches and brambles and then they were gone.

"Something spooked them." Commented Ben in a hushed voice. "I wonder what?"

It seemed harder to be brave now, even along this old dirt road that I had walked hundreds of times and was very familiar to most of my friends as well. We shone our flashlights at the spot from which the deer had seemed to flee and saw nothing. It was at that moment we also realized that the dogs had at some point deserted the party. I uncharitably imagined them sitting lazily by the fire.

Then we heard it, a long drawn out howl, not the kind I had ever heard the our dogs make. It was more full throated and in a deeper register. It seemed to emanate from the same general area where we were shining our lights, but it bounced off the hills and echoed in a way which made it impossible to be sure.

"Dog?" Asked Tobey.

"No, I don't think so…" I replied.

"Coyote?" Jenny suggested.

"Maybe…" Bill said unsure. "It sounds a little too deep for a coyote."

"Wolf?" Asked Johnny in a half hopeful manner.

"No Wolves in this part of the country for one hundred years…" I said quietly. I thought I heard something else and scanned the bushes and trees with my light.

The sound came again and although it was still difficult to determine where exactly it came from there was one thing we were all certain of.

"Its closer now…" Ben said. And then it sounded again. "Much closer."

We were all looking, peering into the night with our flashlights. The pasture was illuminated by the moonlight a silver grey expanse which faded into the darkness of the trees. There under the branches there was darkness that neither the moon nor our weak flashlight beams could penetrate.

It was Toby who saw it first although Johnny would later claim that he did. He pointed and we trained our flashlights on the spot. At first all that was there was a large yew bush standing at the edge of the meadow, just outside the shadows of the trees. Then we saw it. Just the top of its head at first, the ears and eyes which were a golden yellow. The ears were pointy like our husky dog and covered in a similar silver grey fur. The eyes almost seemed to have a light of their own, but it could just have been a reflection of the flashlight beams. We were frozen stock still and staring and then the beast rose to its full height and stood there, stood there like a man. It was tall, the bush now only reached a little higher than its waist and though it stood like a man it had a head that much more closely resembled that of a wolf. It had a wolf's snout and jaws and when it opened its mouth we could see a mouthful of predatory teeth. Somehow what was the most disturbing was that it was wearing the clothes of a man. A dark colored shirt bursting at the seams with silver grey fur. It looked at us across the field. Its eyes held an intelligence that no animal could possess. It was clearly a werewolf.

 I don't know how long we stood there frozen and staring. It seemed like forever as the figure slowly crossed the meadow in our direction.

Ben was fumbling in his pockets trying to find the silver dinner knife he had borrowed from the kitchen. When he pulled it out it glinted in the moonlight but looked very small and not at all up to the task at hand and from his expression he knew it.

"I don't believe it." Johnny whispered. "A werewolf. A real…" 

He didn't get to finish that thought. "Werewolf! Lets get the hell out of here!" Jennifer shouted and suddenly we were all in motion, racing back the way we came along the dirt road.

A flashlight was dropped and left where it lay. My top hat flew off my head as I ran and joined it. It was amazing, running as we did in such a tight terrified clump that we did not fall over each others feet. Past the gravel pit and culvert we ran. We looked behind us once there and could see the persuing shape on the road, now growing closer.

Faster we ran. Johnny had begun to straggle and we urged him to keep up. Bill was the fastest and was now far ahead of the group. As we passed the ancient oak tree, we looked again but, our pursuer had vanished. We stood gasping for breath, all except Bill who was still far ahead. Johnny caught us up then, so winded he couldn't speak. 

"Where did it go?" Ben asked and as if in answer we heard something moving through the bushes across the stream and nearly parallel to us. Again we took off running toward the long hill that led to the barn. So loud was the sound of our own breathing and ourfootfalls on the road that we lost track of the beast's progress. Was it keeping pace with us, or had it even overtaken us? As we reached the foot of the hill the question was answered. It was there that avenue of trees that shaded the road ended on the meadow side of the road. We could see the barn clearly at the top of the hill in the moonlight which bleached it and the intervening field of all color. It was a bleak landscape with dark swatches of shadow where the light couldn't reach. It was then we saw the beast again. It had nearly caught up with us and stood just past the last tree only the slight slope of the road bank separated it from where we stood. 

Once again it raised its head to the sky and howled and that sound sent chills down our spine and paralyzed us with terror. It paused for a moment and the deliberately began to climb the bank toward us. The sound of its claws scrabbling in the gravel seemed to set us free and again we were off, pelting up the hill as fast as we could. I only looked back once as we reached the hill crest where the barn stood and saw the werewolf still chasing us although in what could only be described as a leisurely fashion. It was only about halfway up the hill when with a crash a buck broke cover from the wooded side of the road and dashed across it and into the meadow. The beast paused in its pursuit of us, and tore off after the deer with a speed that it had not previously displayed.

Moments later we were in the house. Bill was there before us and had already attempted to explain what we had seen. My mother and grandmother were smiling indulgently and seemed completely unconcerned as we all talked over one another in an attempt to explain. After we had exhausted ourselves to no effect, they were finally able to get a word in edgewise. Ben was made to stop rummaging in the silverware drawer and returned the dinner knife. Johnny was gently relieved of the silver candlestick and Jenny was shooed away from the cavalry saber that hung on the wall. It was all just one last Halloween trick or treat. My grandfather had put on a werewolf mask and hairy gloves and followed us on our evening excursion in hopes of giving us a memorable fright. There was a palpable sense of relief in the room and then much laughter some at Bill's expense. Cocoa was made by my Great Aunt and we cozied up the fireplace tired from our run and emotionally spent from our terrors. Only Melissa was still a bit sulky about being so frightened and mumbled something about how unfunny the whole business was. Johnny however seemed unconvinced that my grandfather was capable of such a convincing impersonation of a werewolf, but he was gently mocked by all of us and quickly fell silent. We tried to stay up to watch “The Mummy’s Hand” on Chiller Theater but were all nodding off before too long and were soon packed off to bed. The five boys shared the same room again, an extra cot had been set up for Bill and the girls got the room across the hall. Melissa was still a bit sulky when she said good night but Jenny said that this had been the "best Halloween ever." I was inclined to agree. As I fell asleep not long after I could hear the grown ups talking and laughing downstairs though I could not make out exactly what was said.

The next morning we all feasted on one of my Aunts wonderful breakfasts. Everyone's spirits were restored even Melissa's who now seemed to appreciate the frights of the previous evening, although she claimed, as did not to have been actually that afraid. I caught Johnny eyeing the werewolf mask and gloves, which were lying on the coffee table, with great suspicion.

"The snout was much longer…" I heard him say to himself but he made no further comment.

My grandfather was absent at breakfast which was unusual so before it was time for us to pile into the cars to take everyone home, I went to find him. He was in his bedroom still in his pajamas and bathrobe and looked a little worse for the wear. There were some scratches that I could see on his face and he was walking gingerly. 

"Threw out my back a bit last night I'm afraid." He said a bit ruefully.

I said nothing at first rushed across the room and gave him a hug, the biggest I could.

"Thanks Pa." I said. "You are the best."

He patted my head gently. "I'm glad it made you happy."

As I came downstairs I overheard my mother and grandmother whispering together in the hall.

"Is dad alright."

"Just a little stiff. He thinks he is younger than his bones are sometimes."

"He missed breakfast that isn't like him."

"Well, you know how venison always disagrees with his digestion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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