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Author Topic: The Halloween Mask [REWRITE]  (Read 851 times)

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Slimebeast

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on: 05:10:14 PM 08/20/19
It's been nearly a year since I first set my eyes on the Halloween mask.

It was a pumpkin. A white one. I had never personally seen them in any color other than orange before that very moment. Something about the pallid, drooping latex made it seem cold and bloodless.

I had grown about a decade too old to go out Trick 'r Treating, so instead I took my place at the front door of the house. The job of handing sweets out to each new crop of tiny ghouls had been handed down to me. Thankfully, I had my iDevice on hand and the music pumping through my earbuds kept me from getting grumpy due to boredom.

The house was nothing remarkable, but it was nice enough. Just another suburban foreclosure taken by the bank when the previous “Hanes family” didn't make their payments. My parents snapped it up almost exclusively for the extra bathroom. I guess that living in close quarters with their “adult child”, if you'll forgive the oxymoron, had worn pretty thin for them.

That's what I've been reduced to; an oxymoron. It wasn't supposed to turn out that way, but attending college did very little for my employment opportunities. I barely learned anything, as a matter of fact, due to equal parts partying and absent professors who couldn't care less.

“Who are you supposed to be?” I asked a kid in an obvious Dracula costume.

“I'm a blood guy!!” was his disappointing response.

“Welp, here ya go.” I tossed a ridiculously undersized candy bar into his bag. “Don't bite any strange necks – you don't know where they've been.”

I got back a face-palm. From a child.

The old cliché held true that night. Halloween had indeed become generic and over-commercialized, something that would've horrified my younger self. I saw five more discount Draculas, an entire coven of weak Witches, and more licensed cartoon characters than even I could name.

Worse yet were the kids – even teenagers – who threw on whatever they had lying around. Putting on your fancy church clothes does not make you a “CEO', or “The President”. It just makes you a lazy-ass. Two tween girls showed up in beauty masks and towels, which was several levels of wrong.

It was around eleven o'clock when the stream of nougat-faced beggars finally began to taper off. The candy was almost gone as well, proving my parents were great at planning just about everything in my life. They must have factored in the ten pieces I would invariably steal over the course of the evening.

I thought the job was done. I put away the media player. Then, when my hand reached to flick the switch and turn off the porch light, a sharp, sudden knock jarred me out of my walking sugar coma.

Actually, I was more of a solid palm-strike than a knock. The frosted glass panes of the door rattled.

“Shit!!” I shouted, startled. It took a moment to compose myself. “I mean... SIT... tight. Sit tight, kids! You didn't hear what you think you heard.”

Whew. Quick thinking saved the day.

I grabbed the barren bowl of candy and awkwardly thrust the door open.

“Okay! Who do we have-”

There was no one. Not only were there no children waiting at my door, but I couldn't see a family traveling anywhere in the neighborhood. Only the dim lights in the widows of my neighbors confirmed that there were indeed other human beings somewhere else on Earth.

“If you want to play ding-dong-ditch, you have to ring the doorbell!” I called out, careful to keep from bothering others in their quiet homes. “It's the whole 'ding-dong' part...” I added under my breath.

I shook my head with a smirk, remembering how Halloween used to be the one night I'd get into any and all trouble I could find. Anonymously sass-talking adults, shoving past other kids, taking any unattended candy I found. I was a complete asshole.

As I was about to close the door, I finally noticed the very out-of-place gift that had been left on the doorstep. It was the mask.

The white pumpkin was created to look as if its facial features had rotted out as opposed to being carved like a normal jack 'o lantern. Something about this odd choice in design caused me a moment's pause. My brain took a jarring, stuttering half-step before it made the progression from “disembodied face on the floor” to “harmless costume accessory”.

“It's mine, now!” I called out again, looking toward the bushes. I scooped the jiggling empty head off of the stone step and closed the door with a smug flourish. Whoever lost it would have to come back and beg me to return it. At least, that's how I saw the situation.

“Weird kids tonight.” I called up the staircase, to the second floor where my parents had decided to sit out the festivities. There was no reply, and I reasoned that they had failed to stay awake at this late hour.

I got back around to turning off the porch light and made my way to the living room, darkening each overhead light as I passed. I liked nights, for the most part, because it was a calming time when I had full run of the house.

Plopping down on the couch, I tossed the white pumpkin face onto the coffee table. I turned on the television and sank back into a glassy-eyed stupor.

“With the Jar-A-Ma-Jig,” explained the onscreen pitch man, “you can avoid these meal mistakes... and so much more!”

Late night programming wasn't my thing, especially not infomercials. I cast a quick glance toward my gaming console and considered a late-night session. Getting in a short, casual round didn't seem appealing, either. When I played, I was in it to win. With my fatigue, that could mean staying up all night in search of a single victory.

Another bang echoed through the house. I jumped, flinging the remote control through the air. My surprise quickly turned to anger as I realized the kid must've come back for his crappy mask. I grabbed the thing up again and contemplated the idea of throwing it in the trash and going to bed.

“Coming!” I shouted. “Break down the door, why don'tcha?!”

As I passed the sliding glass door that lead to our backyard, I noticed something that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was the word “BOO!”, crudely scribbled on the glass with what looked like dog crap.

“You gotta be kidding me.”

I stormed over to the door and peered into the blackness. Someone, somewhere, was messing with the wrong adult child.

It was then that the smell wafted to me. It wasn't the rank stink of animal feces. It was sweet, familiar, and comforting. It was chocolate. Only moderately relieved, I turned away from the back door and fully intended to give the kids outside a solid piece of my mind.

It wasn't until I was nearly out of the living room that I thought about that strong smell. Going back through my thoughts, I came to a distressing conclusion. The writing was on the inside of the glass.

I could've done any number of things at this point. I could've leapt out the back door and into the yard, calling for blood. I could've gone to the front door and picked the kid up by his collar, scolding all the while. In that moment, however, I took the third option.

“Mom! Dad!” I flung the mask down and run upstairs screaming like a banshee. “Get up! There's someone in the house!”

When I opened their bedroom door, nearly crashed through it, really, they weren't there. The bed was made, the lights were off, and the room was empty.

“Are you still awake?” I shouted, sprinting down the upstairs hallway. “Did you heat what I said?”

I pulled open the door to dad's cramped home office, fully expecting to see him hunched over some boring paperwork, brow furrowed. When I entered, however, I witnessed an entirely different sight.

Dad was on the desk, seated, knees pulled to his chest and wrapped with his arms. His papers were strewn all over, and where torn and crumpled. Not a single photo on the walls hung straight, and a few had their glass broken out.

“Dad?” I whispered as he simply sat on the wooden pedestal, visibly shuddering.

He looked up at me slowly, like a child waking up from a dream. On his head, he wore the same type of pale, horrible mask I had held in my hand just moments earlier.

“Don't bother me.” He muttered, long strings of thick saliva dangling from the mask's mouth. “I'm finishing up the Schweitzer report.”

He jerked is head to one side, turned his face upward, and let out a demented, agonized scream.

I backed out of the doorway, nearly toppling over the railing between myself and a nasty drop to the first floor. Propping myself on that rail, then the walls, I hurried to the bathroom where I'd last seen my mother preparing for the night.

“Mom?! Something really terrible is-”

Again, my entry was halted by a disorienting sight. There mom was, sitting on a stool in front of the mirror over the sink. The mirror was broken into a spider's web of cracks from what looked like a straight-on headbutt.

She sat quietly in her bath robe, its collar and shoulders stained with flecks of red. She applied lipstick to the asymmetrical, gaping mouth of her white mask.

“Mom!” I screamed, my brain once again lurching along like a smoking jalopy.

She turned slowly, just as dad had looked to me. She instantly threw the lipstick onto the tile floor as if she were enraged by my mere presence.

“Why aren't you in bed?” She demanded nonsensically. “Why aren't you asleep?!”

In one quick, awkward motion, mom stood from the stool and wrenched a long, jagged piece of glass from the mirror. Her blood trailed down the length of the reflective blade as she raised it over he head and ran for me.

“WHY AREN'T YOU ASLEEEEEEP?!” She shrieked in a shrill tone I'd never heard from her before.

I barely slammed the door shut in time. All at once, I felt the same dread I had experienced as a child when I was about to be punished... mixed with the level of terror that only comes from knowing your life is about to end in the must unpleasant way you can think of.

I looked the screen on my phone and started dialing 911, completely unsure of what to say.

A blood-red hand came down hard on the phone, knocking it out of my grasp. Stunned, I looked up to see my father standing over me.

“No phone privileges.” He groaned, sounding as if the words were bubbling through a mouthful of something I didn't want to see.

A single fist rocketed toward me. I lowered myself just in time as my own father's knuckles passed through the drywall inches away from my face. Moving to escape, I was instead caught by his other hand. The letter opener clenched in it jabbed through my side as easily as if it were piercing a water balloon. When he roughly withdrew the improvised weapon, blood sprayed out, painting the far wall.

I screamed again, though this time it was a wordless, mindless howl that came from some primal place.

Clutching the fresh would in my gut, I made my way down the stairs, stumbling and falling as I did so. I landed at the foot of the staircase with a heavy thud. There, I was reunited with the mask that had been left for me. It laid where I had thrown it, and its empty, mocking stare seemed to say, “Bet you're glad you went up there, huh?”

BANG.

Another palm-thrust at the front door.

“G-Go away!” I yelled, crawling away from the noise as best as I could. “Leave me alone!”

“Police officer!” A gravely, authoritative voice came from beyond the door. “We've received several complaints about the noise. Open the door.”

“Oh God.” I pulled myself to my feet and hobbled to the door, hunched over in pain. “Thank God.”

With my last ounce of strength, I turned the knob, leaving streaks of my blood across its shiny gold surface.

Standing at the door was a tall, well-dressed man in dark green. Though he was wearing a nice suit, his costume didn't seem say “CEO” or “The President”. A necktie that was little more than thorny, braided vines hung from his neck like a noose. On his head, he wore the mask I'd seen three times that night... though his was a vibrant green and seemed to have a more jolly expression.

“Trick 'r treat.” He said snidely.

I couldn't run. I couldn't fight. All I could do was collapse with a soft whimper.

“Awww. Looks like someone's already tricked you!” The mask man sounded anything but empathetic. “Well, don't worry. I'll make sure you're safe from now on.”

From there, things are a bit fuzzy. I must've blacked out and awakened several times as the masked man went to work. I remember blood... gauze... the pinch of stitches... and the cold surface of a kitchen counter top. I remember the basement, and my head striking the wooden stairs as someone dragged me by my feet.

I saw the secret doorway in the basement wall, one that no one in my family had found over the months we'd spent living in the house.

Most of all, I remember what the masked man said.

“Forgive me for not making proper introductions.” He dragged me to the middle of a stone floor and took a key ring from a hook. “The name is Samuel Hanes. You can call me Spooky Sam. Now, I admit it's a nickname I gave myself, but I think it fits.”

He walked over to a barred door and placed a key into the lock. As he pulled that door open, a human corpse fell forward, landing almost face-to-face with my all but paralyzed body.

“This is MY house, you see. The people down here were my friends.” He rolled the corpse to one side. “Hell, they were my family as far as I'm concerned. My little trick 'r treaters. Ah, the fun we had together!”

My mother stepped into view, joining the strange man. I hadn't even known she was down there.

“Unfortunately, things got kind of... complicated. I had to go away for a while, and I couldn't really ask a neighbor to come by and feed them. I'm sure you understand.”

The masked man chuckled as he lead my now obedient mother into the cell, closing her in and locking the door tight.

I could hear the man opening another cell, though I couldn't turn my head to look. I heard the soft fall of another corpse, followed by the heavy footsteps of my dad. Another click of the lock told me he had been stored away, as well.

“I'll miss them, even though I have you, now.” The masked man sighed.

He stepped into view again, this time holding the mask that had been left for me earlier in the night. He turned it inside-out and dabbed a wet cloth against the interior, right where the wearer's nose and mouth would be.

“This probably doesn't make much sense to you right now.” The man flipped the mask right-side-out again. “But that's only because...”

He slid the latex over my head. The strong smell of chemicals invaded my nostrils.

“... You're not in your right head.”

All at once, I could see why it happened. I could see why it had to be that way. I was just a nobody – a twenty-something failure with no future. Then, Spooky Sam appeared to me and gave my purpose.

It makes sense when I think back on it, now. I thought the masks made my parents insane. Now I know it's the other way around! We're the only ones with a solid grip on reality. Everyone else is bonkers!

So, as I said, it's been about a year since all of that happened.

What a long year.

What a long wait.

Sam says it's almost time to come out and play with people.

Almost time for trick 'r treat!
« Last Edit: 12:11:29 PM 04/04/20 by Slimebeast »
If I should live until I wake, I pray the web my death to fake.