Hello and a very warm welcome to a special Halloween edition of the Beardy Book Blogger.
Why is it special, I hear you cry?
Well, you see, as it is Halloween I decided on the spur of the moment to write a short story.
I know right? I was sitting there last night quietly minding my own business when my brain piped up and said, “Hey, why not write a short story for your blog? That would be fun, right? Right?”
Stupid brain. Anyway, several hours later (No, it was not rattled off in 5 minutes, but it doesn’t show 😉 ), I had a finished story.
I quite like it.
This is the first piece of fiction that I have written since I left school. Ok, I know my reviews have the element of fiction about them, but this is the first time that I have committed pixel to screen in a purely original and fictional format and put it out there for EVERYONE TO READ!
WHAT AM I DOING THAT FOR? ARGHHHHHHH!
Well, I guess it is Halloween and it supposed to be the scariest time of the year, right? So why not scare both myself and you with my terrible writing skills?
Exactly, that’s what I thought too.
So, without further ado, or adon’t, your choice, please sit back, dim all the lights and enjoy (?) “Don’t Open The Door – A Cautionary Halloween Tale”.
I don’t like Halloween.
It’s not that I have anything against it per se, but I just feel that it is overblown, overrated and, now, over here. Ok, I know it’s always been over here, but this level of costumery and general shenanigans was never a thing in my day. At least not in my street. When the 31st October rolls around I close the curtains, switch off the lights and pretend that I’m out. Ha – I win. Fortunately I live on a road with very few kids on it, so the last few years have been nice and peaceful. Also, I think of it as doing my bit to improve the dental heath of our children.
Last year was shaping up to be no different. Or so I thought.
It was about 7pm and I was settling down to a night of bingeing on Netflix, or, more accurately, a night of endlessly scrolling through everything that Netflix has to offer before finally settling on something completely different to what I set out to watch or giving up all together. Either way, I had a nice glass of red, a breadstick or two, some hummus and the intention to watch something suitably devilish and Halloweeny..
I was just getting comfortable when my cat Max, aka The Pest, who was sleeping nice and unpesterly on the small table next to me, suddenly sat up. I figured that he had heard a firework – something that always sends him under the sofa – and he started to meowl in that unnerving way that he does when he is particularly perturbed by something us humans cannot hear.
“What’s up with you you big furry pillock?” I asked as he hunkered down, ears flattened against his head as he continued to meowl. I listened out for the telltale bang of a firework, but I couldn’t hear anything. That didn’t matter to Max of course. He can hear fireworks, and foretell the coming of his other nemesis, the thunderstorm, long before I can hear them. On this occasion Max was behaving slightly differently. His fur was standing on end and his meowl was lower, more afraid sounding than the pathetic whine he usually uttered in these circumstances. Suddenly he was off, knocking my wine glass flying off of the table and onto the wooden floor in a shower of crushed grapes and broken glass.
“Oh for fuck’s sake you furry bastarding blasted arsing little ARSE!” I cried as I dashed into the kitchen to get the kitchen roll and mourn the loss of a perfectly good glass of wine. I returned with the kitchen roll and treading carefully to avoid the broken glass I mopped up the mess, resisting the urge to suck the wine from the roll. Max was gone, most likely under the sofa; I could hear him meowling quietly from somewhere deep under there. After the initial annoyance of the broken glass and spilt wine has passed, I returned to my usual calm demeanour and even started to feel sorry for the little sod. This time of year is always a difficult one for our pets, and Max was one particularly scaredy cat. After making some reassuring noises at him, knowing it was likely that that would be the last I’d see of him that night, I cleared away the mess, poured myself a fresh glass, this time in a tumbler so there would be less chance of a repeat performance should he decide to return, and I sat down once more.
No sooner had my arse hit the leather there was a knock at the front door.
Knock knock knock.
Now, even without it being Halloween I don’t usually answer the door. No one ever calls for me and the only people who do knock are people I don’t particularly want to answer the door to anyway, such as the Latter Day Saints, local politicians, or people looking to fix the guttering or do the garden. Unless it’s the postie, Amazon or the neighbours upstairs asking to move the car or some such thing I resolutely remain a miserable sod when it comes to door answering. As I knew that upstairs were out for the night – I saw them all leaving earlier – I decided to exercise my moral right to ignore it and remain my unsociable, miserable, fuck off world self.
They knocked once more.
Knock knock knock.
I ignored it once more. Max wailed from under the sofa once more. I took a sip of wine and dipped a breadstick into the hummus.
“Fuck!” I exclaimed as I jumped and spilt the wine all over my yellow Freddie Mercury t-shirt. I sat perfectly still as my heart thumped in my chest.
Max wailed quietly.
What the actual fuck was that all about? Whoever it was outside sounded like they had nearly put their fist through the bloody door. Maybe I should answer the door? Or at least look through the window first? The kitchen, just off the living room, was in darkness and so I went in there and gingerly peered through the window towards the front door to my left.
There was no one there.
Whoever it was had gone. I realised I had been holding my breath and I let it out in one long sigh. Now, I’m not a particularly brave individual. I may have the beard of a rock hard bastard – or at least I like to think so – but underneath, well, not even underneath really – it’s right there sitting proudly on top – I am a bona fide fully paid up member of the chicken club. I hate confrontation, so I was happy to see that whoever had tried to knock the door off its hinges had pissed off to bother someone else.
There was a small wail from the living room.
“There’s nothing out there Max, you furry buffoon”, I called into the living room.
I could smell red wine and I remembered that I was wearing a tumbler full all over my chest. “Ah feck it!”, and I was about to remove my tee when there suddenly came a knock from the side door into the kitchen.
Knock knock knock.
“Shit”, I whispered to no one in particular, “the cheeky sods have gone down the side of the house”.
The side door has a frosted glass panel in the top half so at least I could see whoever would be standing on the other side.
Knock knock knock.
It was obvious that whoever was out there really wanted me to open the door to them. Several things occurred to me at once: Maybe it’s just Anne from up the road locking herself out again? Maybe it is simply trick or treaters for the first time in years? I’d have to give them a semi-soft apple from the fruit bowl as I never had any sweets ready. Why am I being such a fucking coward? And why was I saying all of this out loud to myself, alone, in a dark kitchen, covered in red wine and with a wailing moggy under the sofa in the next room? In fact, Max had gone suddenly very quiet.
It was a child’s voice. Uncertain. A girl’s voice from the sound of it.
“Hello? I need help. Please open the door!”
It was a small voice. A pleading voice. One that sounded quite distressed. I moved towards the side door so I could see the figure standing beyond the glass. Immediately my cowardly instincts kicked in: what if it’s some sort of scam, I thought. What if she’s being used to lure me into opening the door so that another person can rush me, force their way in, mug me and burgle the place? If it is a lone child, and one of the age her voice makes her appear to be, 8 to 9 years old I would guess, she couldn’t have beat on the door with the ferocity of earlier. There must be someone else with her.
“Please! Please open the door. I’m afraid.”
There was a note of increasing desperation in her voice now. There was genuine fear in there.
I stood in the dark kitchen in front of the door. Through the glass I could see the silhouette of a small to middle height person. She was standing perfectly still, looking directly at me through the frosted glass. She wouldn’t be able to see me though as the only light was from the living room from the small table lamp in the corner which didn’t reach into the kitchen.
“I can see you, mister, in your yellow top. Please let me in!”
Shit. The game was up there then. Ok, I figured out what I was going to do.
“Are you ok? What’s up?” I called through the door. What the fuck am I doing, I thought? What’s up? Jesus. Just open the bloody door. If someone else decides to rush in you can shut it fast and in their face before they get in.
“PLEEEEEEEEEEEEASE OPEN THE DOOOOOOOOOOR!”
Her scream was so loud and high pitched it threatened to shatter the glass in the door. My heart leapt and thumped in my chest and I swore that the temperature dropped several degrees even though the heating was on. Suddenly she battered her fists on the glass “Mister, mister, mister, let me in, let me in, LET ME IN!”
That was it: all fear left me, this child was genuinely in distress, and I grabbed the handle and opened the door. As I did so, Max shot out from the living room, issuing the loudest hiss and wail that I’d ever heard him make. He bolted past me through my legs, nearly knocking me over, and shot away into the night. As he did so a blast of icy wind blew through the door cutting right through to my marrow. Jesus Christ that was freezing cold. It was like someone had blasted me with tiny icicles, cutting through my skin and penetrating every part of my being. Once I had regained my composure I looked through the door for the child.
There was no one there.
Bloody kids. “Fucking think that this funny do you?” I called out into the night as my heart started to return to something like a normal rate. Who the hell gets their kicks out of scaring the shit out of people like that? There was never any trouble with kids where I lived; this was taking the piss. I wandered to the end of the drive and scanned the road left and right. There was no one there. Whoever it had been was probably hiding behind the cars or in another driveway, chuckling up their sleeves at a job well done. Yeah, good on you fuck heads. Ha fucking ha.
I turned around and walked back to door. I trod in something wet and slimy. “Fuck’s sake. What is that?” It was too dark to see, but it smelt funny; I would have to change my socks when I got inside. I looked down towards the path to the garden. There was a small alleyway between our garage and the garden fence that led to the neighbour’s garden behind mine. All was in darkness and I thought to myself that whoever it was may be hiding down there. Well, if they were then fuck ‘em. They can stay there and I hoped they trod in one of Max’s stinking turds. Ha, that’d learn ‘em.
With a newfound smugness I went back inside and stood in the doorway. I made a few squeaking noises to try to attract Max back, but he was gone for now. I thought back to the sound he made as he shot past me; I had never seen him in that state of fear and distress before. He was petrified.
I also noticed that there were no fireworks to be heard. I stood there for a minute more, listening out, but there was nothing. Maybe it had just been a rogue firework. Maybe whoever thought it would be hilarious to knock on my door and pretend to be a child in danger, had set it off as a jolly jape? All part of their plan to unnerve and put the shits up some poor unsuspecting sod, aka, me.
As I stood there I also noticed how mild it was. It was, and had been for some time, unseasonably mild for the time of year. The heating was on inside, but it was hardly necessary at the moment. So where had that icy blast come from? I mentally shrugged and, remembering that I was still covered in wine and had a smelly, slimy sock, went inside and closed the door. Just to be on the safe side I locked the door and left the key in the lock.
I turned around and faced the living room.
The girl was standing in the doorway.
“Jesus FUCK!” I pretty much jumped through into the flat upstairs. The girl just stood there. She said nothing, looking straight ahead at me. I couldn’t see her face as the light from the corner table backlit her and she was in shadow. “How did you get in?” She said nothing. She must’ve come in whilst I was looking down the street and entered from the garden end of the house. “Are you alone? What’s your name?” She remained silent. “Um….” I didn’t know what else to say. Well, what would you have done faced with a similar predicament? There was a strange, terrified child alone in my flat. She wore a dark coloured rain coat, the hood up over her head casting her face into shadow. Underneath she was wearing a plain dress, with a tattered looking cardigan over it, and small yellow wellington boots on her feet. In her hand she appeared to be holding what looked like a red dog lead; it hung limply at her side, trailing on the floor.
“Is there anybody with you?” I asked her, slowly moving towards her aware that there may be someone else standing behind the wall out of sight.
The girl didn’t move. At all. She stood perfectly still, looking directly at me, but I still couldn’t see her face. It appeared that her hood was extinguishing or consuming all of the light around it. It was very odd and more than a little unnerving. I noticed that the air was getting colder as I moved towards her, my breath started to condense in front of me.
I jumped sky high as the knocking once again shook the glass in the kitchen door. I spun around, seeing a figure, the same figure as before it seemed, stood on the other side.
“Mister, pleeeeease, please let me in! PLEEEEEASE!” and with that last piercing scream she hammered on the door once again, the glass shaking so much she was threatening to smash it in. I turned around to the other girl, “Go inside and….” but she was gone. What the hell was going on? I went into the living room and there was no one there. “Hello, little girl?” Yes, that’s right, I called her ‘little girl’. Every horror film cliche flew through my mind in that brief instance. I was only grateful that I didn’t have a cellar. The temperature in the living room was freezing. Well below freezing it seemed. The hairs on my arms were stood on end, goosebumps prickled my flesh. I started to shiver.
The knocking at the door resumed.
“Mister, mister, mister….I know that you’re there. Please let me in. I need your help. Pleeeeeease. I’m scared. Why won’t you help me?”
I hesitated as I dithered between the living room and the short hall leading to my bedroom. The small bathroom was to my left, but it was empty. The spare room was to my right, but that door was closed as it usually was to keep Max out. The only other room was my bedroom directly ahead of me. Slowly I walked towards it. I gingerly put my hand on the light switch and turned it on in one quick movement: it was empty. There was nowhere for her to hide in there, and the back doors leading into the small garden were locked.
My head was spinning as I tried to figure out what the hell was happening. Just for good measure I tried the spare room, but it too was empty. No one. Not a sausage. It was warmer in there too. As I re-entered the living room the temperature dropped sharply once again and shivering I went back into the kitchen.
The figure was still at the door, silent now, looking directly at me, her face blurred by the glass. I went into the kitchen towards the door. I’d had enough of this now, I went to open it.
“Don’t open the door!” The voice of the girl came from behind me. I spun around and there she was, in exactly the same position as before. I still couldn’t see her face.
“What?” I spluttered. She said nothing, just standing there her shadowed face looking directly at me. I turned back to the door as the knocking on the glass resumed. The figure on the other side stood there, motionless. I didn’t see her hand on the glass as the knocking sounded.
“Open the door mister. I can see your yellow shirt. I know you’re there. Please help me, I’m in danger.”
I hesitated, turning back to the girl stood in my living room, then back to the kitchen door and the fuzzy figure of a similarly aged girl on the other side. Once again the knocking resumed, and once again her hand didn’t raise up to the glass. I felt my own hand move towards the key in the lock…
“NO! DON’T…LET…HER…IN!” The voice from the girl behind me appeared to come from her direction, but it was inside my head at the same time. Loud and clear, as if I had thought it myself. The duality of the sounds made me disoriented and quite giddy. The cold was creeping further into the kitchen. I could see and hear the crackle of frost forming on the microwave oven and on the counter beside me; the freezing cold crept up through my feet from the tiled floor.
“Wh…wh…why nu…nu….nu….not….” my teeth were chattering so much now and my face was so numb I could hardly speak, my breath almost freezing in front of my eyes.
“She’s a bad girl. She hurt me. She wants to hurt me again. She killed my dog so I pushed her in the pond. Now she’s mad at me.” The girl continued to stare straight at me, her face in that impenetrable shadow, and held up the lead. The little silver name tag hanging from the loop at the end tinkled as it moved. Her voice came both from her and within my head at the same time. She sounded scared, terrified, but her body language did not show it.
“Wh…why…is…it…so…co…co…co…cold….?” I could hardly speak now and I could swear that my eyes were beginning to ice over.
The knocking resumed at the door.
The girl outside had her face pressed up against the glass. Then it was through the glass as if the glass wasn’t there. Her eyes were covered in milky white cataracts, her skin the colour of mushroom soup, peeling away from her skull revealing bone beneath. Her teeth were black and rotten and her mouth was full of stinking, thick algae. As she spoke it oozed from her lips and over her chin onto the mat under the door with a dull wet thwap.
“Mister, mister…don’t let her touch you! You shouldn’t have let her in! Open the door. Pleeeeeeease. You/we are in danger”. That last you/we were said at the same time, both in my head and from the rotten mouth of the child who was both outside and inside the door.
Suddenly the girl’s eyes widened and her mouth opened as she began to silently cry out, the smell from her mouth was putrescent; a rotten, mouldy stench of decay, stagnant water and death. A small, brown, dead fish fell out and onto the kitchen floor. In my head the girl’s words formed:
“Mister, look out behind you!” The terror in her voice was immense. I spun around only to see the other girl was now standing immediately behind me. She looked up and her hood fell back revealing her face. The skin was smooth and pulled tightly over what appeared to be the features underneath. In her eye sockets the eyeballs rolled about madly under the translucent skin; the veins criss-crossing over them. Her mouth, at least the mouth under the pale, sickly, damp skin opened wide and appeared to grin wildly. She reached out her hand, the skin on her fingers was black and gangrenous, the smell was overpowering. She put her hand upon my arm; her touch was so cold it burnt my skin, her fingers sticking to my flesh like placing your tongue onto a frozen surface.
“Trick or treat?” she said cocking her head to one side, and as both girls started to laugh, their laughter growing into peals of childish hysteria, my head spun and I collapsed onto to the freezing floor.
I came to early the next morning on the floor of the kitchen where I fell. The temperature was back to normal and I was alone. My head was sore and neck stiff from lying on the hard floor all night. Max was eating his food from his bowl. He looked up at me, meowed in a questioning “what are you doing on the floor?” kind of way, and sauntered off back through the catflap. Everything appeared normal. The events of the previous night came flooding back to me. I jumped nervously as I looked towards the living room door and then the side door.
There was nothing there.
There was no algae or slime on the floor. There was no hole in the glass panel where the girl’s head had come through. There was no lingering stench of decay.
What the actual fuck had happened. I was beginning to think that I had hallucinated the whole thing, maybe that hummus had gone off, when I felt something itching on my right arm. I looked down and there in the shape of four small fingers was a red burn mark. I remembered the thing I’d trodden in outside and I checked my sock. There was a dark, incredibly smelly, damp mark and a piece of slime stuck to it.
This year I am taking no chances. I have a bowl of sweets ready for anyone who may come a knocking at my door – alive or dead. I sit and ready myself.
Knock Knock Knock.
Knock Knock Knock.
“Hello? Mister? Please open the door, I need help.”
It’s the same terrified voice as last time. This time, my heart hammering against my ribs, I open the door. I’ve been dreading for this moment for the last 365 days. There, stood on my doorstep are two small girls: one in a dark raincoat, her hood up, her face in the darkest shadow, wearing yellow wellington boots and holding an empty red dog lead; the other in a small floral dress, soaking wet and clinging to her small body, covered in mud and pond weed. Her hair is plastered down over her face, but those milky dead eyes looking up at me through her matted hair are unmistakable, and the algae falling from her mouth makes the same wet thwapping noise as it hits the step below her. The smell of decay from both of them is overpowering. Desperate not appear rude I suppress the urge to throw up. Both stand there looking up at me expectantly.
“Trick or treat?”
I’ve learnt my lesson.
I reached behind the door and pick up the bowl of sweets, holding it out in front of them. They both reach in and take a handful of sweets with rotting fingers. They stand back from the door.
“Thank you mister.” they both say together in that outside/inside my head way, their voices guttural and wet; all traces of innocence and fear gone. “Happy Halloween.” they say. “Happy Halloween to you too”, I say back, and with that they giggle and, holding hands, skip happily back up the path and up the road. I watch them as they disappear into the night, the darkness swallowing them up as if they were never there in the first place.
“See you next year!” I say to no one in particular, and close the door as a small chuckle drifts in over the wind.
I love Halloween.