Halloween

Dakota walked down the street avoiding the large puddles whilst the cape swirled around his legs. The front doors and gardens he past where mostly decorated with cobwebs, fake gravestones, glowing lights and hanging ghosts. Grinning Jack O’ Lanterns followed him with flicking eyes as he went by their windows. The voices of costumed people, doorbells and theme music crowded the air. However, it was the houses that lay in darkness which drew him the most.

Everyone knew not to visit those houses. It was drilled in by over protective parents and ghost stories. Trick or Treat haters, religious believers and old people against anti-social behaviour, whom might open the door stating they didn’t take part and gave you leaflets instead of treats. Or else there were none-door-openers or those that would go out of the night, making it seem their houses were abandoned.

Turing the corner, Dakota sidestepped some Disney character dressed up children and their grumpy guardian. They, like him, clutched bags weighed down by money and food. They were at the right age to be, whilst Dakota fresh out of his teens probably shouldn’t be pretending he was too.

Rubbing a gloved hand over his makeup face, he got rid of that thought. Tonight he could be whoever he wanted to be and no one was allowed to judge him. He walked up to the next house. A pumpkin carved as a howling wolf and other cut as a flying witch flanked the door. Ringing the doorbell, he took in a deep breath. He smelt warm cinnamon and ginger.

The door opened, a tried middle-aged woman held out a green bowl of lollypops. He took one, thanked her and quickly moved on. It had become a habit now and away to keep the embarrassment and anger from flaring up.

The next few houses went by, though numbness was starting to creep in and before he could do the last few, he gave up and walked to the cemetery. Halloween was much more exciting as a kid. Not that he’d ever known that feeling. Going through the gates and following the twisting pathways, Dakota realized that the dead were not the only ones in the cemetery tonight. Loud music and voices floated to him as well as the heavy stink of other things. He could easily have found a group to hang with, but instead he went to the back and oldest part.

A large crypt loomed from the darkness, standing guard over crumbling headstones. Dakota sat down on the steps and pulled two candles and a lighter from his pocket. Lighting them, he rummaged through the bag and pulled out a chew bar. He could hardly hear the music and voices from here. A feeling of calm came over him and he ate more chewy bars.

He’d delay going back he decided. The apartment would only increase his loneliness.  He felt thirsty and put his hand to the bottom of the bag where he’d put into some Coke cans before setting off. A lolly was stuck to the side of the can as he pulled it out. Removing it, he popped open the can and took a drink.

The smell of burning wood swept through on a breeze and was then gone. The candle flames flickered after it, but became still again. A girl screamed somewhere, the sound cutting through the quietness. Dakota looked around even though there was nothing to see. Laughter rose and fell like waves, signalling the results of a harmless scare. He wanted to leave, but willed himself to stay longer.

Taking another drink, he reminded himself why had wanted to take part in tonight. That didn’t help how he was feeling right now, though he was as sure as ever that demons and devils weren’t going to get him. He didn’t believe in any of that anymore and now he’d experienced All Hallows’ Eve for himself, Dakota couldn’t grasp the things he’d been convinced to stand against.

He unwrapped the lolly and started sucking on it. Giggling and a hushed voice had him searching through the gravestones. A teenage couple appeared on the path and before he could move, they had seen him and come over.

‘You got a light?’ the boy called.

Dakota pulled it out and held it up. He woke up the flame and the boy lit a hand roll. The girl, who had been staring at him asked if he had any chocolate bars. With a shrug, he dug around in the bag and handed her one. She seemed grateful for it and then they were on their way back through the gravestones. He watched them go whilst he finished his drink. He blew out one the candles and waited for the wax to harden. Putting it and the empty can in the bag, he picked up the other one and walked home.

The streets seemed quieter now. Though music still drifted on the cold air and voices reduced to whispers and echoes trailed after it. He made it home without any trouble. The apartment felt as if someone had died in it. Which Dakota guessed could have been true. He placed the candle in the pumpkin he carved before and left the bag beside it. Only two doors led off the living room-kitchen and he went into the bathroom first to wash off the makeup before taking his vampire costume off in the bedroom.

Sitting down on the broken sofa, he watched the candle flicking in its orange lantern. He felt like his whole life had been one big lie. He wanted to believe that escaping it all had been the best thing to do, but a part of him had never been completely sure.

Blood

The blood called deep down inside of him. He pulled the girl closer and slowed their pace of dancing. The smell and pounding sound of her blood had him licking his lips. He placed a line of kisses down her neck. She moaned in his arms. His lips lingered on a vein. Opening his mouth he sucked gently on her skin. She moaned louder and tried to wrap her arms around him. He grabbed her left hand and brought it to his cheek. He kissed her palm and let her hand go.

In the nightclub they were just another swaying couple. The heavy metal music vibrated through the thick, hot air. People moved around them, dancing and screaming words. White light beams swept by then turned away. The song changed to one he knew and as he dropped his lips to her ear, he whispered the opening lyrics. ‘I must have dreamed a thousand dreams, been haunted by a million screams.’

She giggled and sung the next line. ‘But I can hear the marching feet, they’re moving into the street.’

She tried to twist around to face him, but he tightened his grip on her waist. He kissed her jaw then went back to her neck. Bursting into laughter, she tangled her hand into his hair and tugged it. He growled and opened his mouth against her skin and bit. She gasped and pulled at his hair harder.

The first drop of blood hit his tongue. Tasting nothing but sweetness, he bit harder. The girl yelled out, but didn’t struggle. More blood filled his mouth. He swirled it around with his tongue making it fill every inch of his mouth. He swallowed. Ecstasy rocked through him. He licked the cut before sucking gently.

The smell of blood was already thick in the air. Her’s was just another scent amongst others. He knew no one would stop him as long as he didn’t kill her. That was a forbidden in the club, along with the acts of sex and violence. Opening his eyes, he could pick out the nearest vampires moving across the dance floor. They were all males on the hunt.

Swallowing and licking at the cut again he whispered the current lyrics, ‘This is the time, this is the place, so we look to the future.’

She turned in his arms and he let her this time. Wrapped in each other’s’ arms they swayed, whispering the rest of the lyrics. He kissed the cut he had made a few times, though it was fast healing. She moaned and kissed him just under his ear lope. Pulling back the collar of his white shirt, she kissed his throat and neck. Her lips catching the black elastic choker he wore from which hung a red plastic skull.

Sensing they were being watched, he looked up. A very young male vampire was staring at him from behind two dancing girls. Nipping his girl’s neck, he made to move away, but she grabbed him, yelling out that the song wasn’t over. He turned back, spun her around and they danced until the last notes of Disturbed’s Land of Confusion were replaced with the opening of another song. He hugged her before letting go.

‘Don’t you want me?’ she yelled in his ear. Her hands grabbed his as she looked into his face for an answer.

‘I do,’ he replied back. The words rolled smoothly off his tongue. ‘But I’m here with someone.’

‘A girl?’

‘No.’

She frowned. He put a hand to her cheek and kissed her lips.

‘I don’t mind. You’re my first tonight.’

He smiled softly and cupped her chin in his other hand. ‘He’s young.’

‘So?’ she said against his mouth. They kissed again.

‘He’s far too young to feed here.’

‘I can leave.’

He dropped his hands and moved away from her. ‘Tell me your name.’

‘It’s Connie.’

‘Another time, Connie.’

She opened her mouth, but he turned, pushing his way through the girls. Feeling rejected, Connie turned around, trying to catch another male’s eye. He watched her over his shoulder for a few seconds, and then turned his eyes to the young vampire now before him. The kid looked scared and twitchy. He had hooked his fingers through the loops in his jeans to stop fidgeting.

‘You were fine over there, Soja.’

He shook his head. ‘No, Kaden I wasn’t. There’s too much blood here.’

‘Alright. We’ll leave.’

Taking Soja’s hand, they weaved their way out of the club. The night air was cold and a light rain was falling. The club door banged shut behind them, sealing in the thudding music. Kaden let go of Soja and turned to him. Rain drops were already sparkling from Soja’s short multi-toned blonde hair. He was breathing deeply and his cheeks were flushed. He dropped his head and said in a soft voice. ‘Maybe you should stay?’

‘I can come back,’ Kaden replied. ‘Are you hungry again?’

Soja shook his head and pushed his hair back.

‘Do you want to go home then?’

‘No…’

‘Then?’

‘The arcade?’

‘Only for a bit though.’

Soja smiled and took Kaden’s hand. They started walking, their footsteps almost silent on the cobble stones. The street lamps had been turned off, so the only light source came from the single entrance way. Boxes and bags covered the pavement, they contents unknown. When they stepped onto the main street, it appeared as if they’d just come out of an alleyway. Kaden let go of Soja’s hand and walked out into the road. This street was lined with little shops on both sides, singing of a holiday seaside village. Soja joined him, glancing back at the entrance way.

‘How’d you know it’s there? The club?’ he asked.

Shrugging, Kaden picked up his pace, ‘Instinct and memory.’

‘How’d the humans know?’

‘We tell them. Nobody can stumble on that place, it’s well hidden.’

Soja nodded and fell into step beside Kaden.

‘It’s a feeding ground for lazy vampires. That’s all.’

‘Those humans seem to like it though…I saw that girl you were with…’

Kaden quickly licked his lips at the thought of her blood. Her warmth and scent still clung to his skin. Her blood was forcing its way into the corners of his body, making him feel more alive than he had been in the last few hours.

Soja had been watching his face. ‘Does it taste different?’

‘All blood tastes different,’ Kaden replied. He laughed and they turned the corner.

Before them was another street of shops which ended at a wide opening leading into the beach. The smell of the sea was strong and they could hear tiny waves breaking against the harbour wall and boats. They walked down to the barrier. Kaden rested his arms on the cold metal and looked out to sea. Soja joined him, but instead looked at the front window of a shop.

‘More rain’s coming,’ Kaden said. ‘Look at the black clouds over there. Might even be some thunder in that one.’

‘Do you know how they get ships into bottles?’

Kaden turned and looked. The shop they were standing in front of declared it sold the best pirate items this side of the Caribbean. The window display was over crowed with treasure chests of all kinds, pirate weaponry, fake gold coins, ships in bottles and plastic fish.

‘They build them inside the bottles.’

‘Oh…’

‘Come on.’

They walked along the harbour wall and towards the sea front. Once there they walked down a long road, with small houses and cafes on one side and the beach on the other. The pier and the lighthouse beyond shone like beacons guiding those who didn’t sleep. There were only two arcades and the furthest one presided over the closest. They walked past the pier, glancing at the closed shops, stalls and restaurant. The waves broke loudly against the metal legs. Kaden slowed his steps and waited for Soja to catch up with him. They were both soaked with rain.

‘Do you think it’ll be empty?’ Soja asked.

‘Of course not.’

‘Maybe…You could…?’

Kaden shot him a look and Soja shut his mouth. He swallowed his question, but it still shone in his eyes. The kid was eager to learn all of Kaden’s tricks and more. The newly born beast had a sharp intelligent mind and understood that there was a way to tame the all mighty hungry that ravished through the body it now shared.

‘All right, just a little,’ Kaden said.

They walked to the entrance of the arcade. Some rap music was thumping through the thin walls, mixing with the sounds of voices, coins falling, fake gun noises and music jingles from the games. The place was packed with people. Kaden took the lead and they weaved in. Soja kept close, his eyes darting everywhere. At the back, next to the toilets and a vending machine, a teenager was leaning against the wall. They walked over. The guy turned, sensing Kaden just before he had a chance to move swiftly.

‘Ah,’ Kaden said, ‘Sorry, thought you were someone else.’

‘It’s cool,’ the guy replied.

‘Yeah, maybe I’ve seen you around before.’

‘I don’t think so…I’m not from here.’

‘Do you fancy some fun?’ Kaden asked, moving to the guy’s other side. The guy eyed him up, unsure what his words meant. Kaden lent against the door frame, looking tired and bored of the conversation.

‘I’m good thanks.’ He straightened and walked into the toilets. They watched him go then followed him. The smell hit them, closely followed by the soft groans of male voices. Kaden ignoring everything and went to the guy. He was leaning over a sink. The tap was running and he was about to splash water on his face.

Soja put a hand over his nose and mouth, the smell of the toilets too strong for his newly heightened senses to handle. He choked and swallowed. He had the urge to throw up, but there was nothing but blood inside his stomach now. He pressed his back to the wall and took in a few deep breaths. He watched as Kaden grabbed the guy’s hair and bit down into his neck. The guy tried to yell, but Kaden’s hand covered his month

Soja unable to stop himself gasped as the scent of blood hit the air. Kaden swallowed the drops that had hit is tongue and  waved Soja over. The kid moved slowly, drawn by the blood and stopped by his concisions. When he was close enough, Kaden put his arm around Soja and pressed him closer to the guy’s throat.

The sounds of male groaning grew in the cubical behind them. Soja licked his lips and let Kaden’s hand bring him closer to the small cut on the guy’s neck. Seconds later, Soja was pressing his lips to the blood. Soja shut his eyes as he fixed himself to the wound.

A few minutes later, Kaden pulled him away. Soja resisted and wrapped his arms around the guy. Kaden suddenly yanked him and he fell to the floor. The guy slummed over the sink, the running water splashing into his hair. Soja licked blood off his lips.

‘Why? I was hungry,’ he spoke.

Kaden pulled the guy up and run his tongue over the now larger cut. Then let the guy slump back. He turned to Soja, who was getting off the floor. The male groaning had stopped now, replaced with the sounds of arranging clothes. Kaden grabbed Soja and dragged him out of the toilets just as a lock clicked open and a surprised voice rang out. They hurried out outside and into a porch area, where they watched the rain splashing into puddles. Soja caught his breath back and Kaden leant against the doorway of the fortune teller.

‘He tasted good,’ Soja said. The voice of the beast was layered within his own.

Kaden’s eyes flickered up at Soja. He’s skin was flushed and there was a sleepy expression across his face. Kaden knew they should leave.

Dawn

The streets weren’t safe after dawn. Hannah Long knew that, just like she knew the cause. Sitting in the window box of the attic, she watched the sky changing colour. The streetlamps went out marking a growing pathway of light. Sighing, Hannah watched the first of the spores rising towards the sky. They always started appearing seconds after dawn arrived. At first glance the spores looked like large snowflakes, only green coloured. They were soft and damp to the touch, but they didn’t melt away. Instead they absorbed into skin and spread poison into the body.

Opening her scrapbook, Hannah flipped through the pages. Ever since the spores had first appeared, she had gathered clippings of all kinds. There were newspaper, magazine and internet articles, her own notes from the TV and radio, pictures she had found and others she had taken. Mixed in were her own diary passages, which contained thoughts and reflections on things she had read.

Tucking a lock of brown hair behind her ear and fixing her glasses, she began to read the first reports in the budging book. At first the spores had been something of a spectacle, a mystery of nature across the world, but then they had started killing. It had taken scientists and biologists awhile to figure out the cause, but things were too late and the mushrooms had become well established.

Hannah glanced out of the window as the spores tapped against it. They were growing in numbers as it got lighter and hotter. Looking back again, she scanned an article about how the spores were not being reported in freezing places like Alaska and the North and South Poles. Luckily, they still weren’t, but the idea of fleeing to one of those places now was long past. Their boarders had closed a few months ago, when her parents, who were leading mycologists, had discovered that the spores could transfer via skin contact and it didn’t matter what the outside temperature was because they could almost instantly move.

That was the other reason why Hannah was currently alone. Her parents were living in secret headquarters, working around the clock to try and kill off the mushrooms and their spores. Being fifteen and almost completely aware of the dangerous and progress, Hannah’s parents trusted her. They sent her money once a week and paid for a cleaner and cook to come on set days to help her. She was also still allowed friends over, though most of the people she’d known were either dead or had moved away.

Flipping through more pages, Hannah went to the last few. Most of these articles were about her parents and their team’s progress. She felt tears sting the corner of her eyes and turned the pages on the photographs. She never thought that she’d miss her parents so much. Turning to the next empty page, she picked up a fountain pen and lent back. The brick wall was cool on her back and hard on her head. Turning slightly, she watched the spores gathering into a thick fog now that the sun had fully risen.

Pressing pen to paper, she wrote:

It’s my 16th birthday today and also Halloween. My parents can’t come home, so they are going to video call me later. I miss them. The spores seem thicker today and I was able to watch then rise as dawn broke. The remaining humans must feel like vampires because we are now officially nocturnal. We live in the night and sleep during the day. I fear that the spores might find out how to overcome the darkness that protects us.

I watched a TV interview about that and a biologist said it could never happen. The spores need the light and they know that to be a fact. However, they have yet to truly understand the mushrooms, so what if they can adapt?  

I’m trying not to think about it. Cook said she’d bring me a pumpkin to carve this afternoon. That’ll take my mind off things. Still though, I can’t help but wonder what things will be like when we are all gone.    

Death Date

My eyes and brain took a few moments to register the 3d screened numbers before me: 28.10.2044. 10:08AM. I pushed myself up, the fleece blanket slipping slowly off my shoulders and my hands releasing their tight grip on the small teddy bear. Looking around my bedroom nervously, I expect to see someone in a black lab coat merge from a corner or knock on my door.

Nothing happened and my room looked the same: small white wardrobe, virtual table screen, image windows in which the sun was raising in all its orange glory, side table with all my medicines on it, the patchwork arm chair and the crystal mobile. Listening, I couldn’t hear anything, which was odd for this time of morning. My family should have been rushing about getting clean, dressing, eating, leaving for work and school.

Pulling the fleece away, I swung my legs over the bed and stood up. Cold air wrapped itself around me and slide up my favorite sleeping shorts and top. Seconds later, I felt warmness under my feet and the dull buzz of the heaters coming. I checked the date and time again and then, feeling a bit sick in the stomach checked the numbers tattooed on my wrist.

Everyone on Solria at birth received the numbers. They were selected by a Doctor Computer Generator and based on a range of biological and world facts. The eight digits represented a date and that date was your destined death time. And I had woken up on mine.

I wrapped the blanket around myself and went to the desk. I tapped it, waking up the screen embedded inside. An army of icons covered the table top and after staring at them, I selected photos. Images of the Halloween ball floated across the wall above the desk. I had gone as a mermaid, which some might have seen as an insult to mer-folk, but none of them had been at the party.

The smiling faces of my friends and family looked down on me before I closed the icon and went to my last listed Interweb searches. What to expect on your death day. How can I stop my death? Why must I die? How is a death date decided? Why is my death good for the world? I quickly inputted: My death day is today, but I’ve not died and searched it. No matched results, other than a handful of chat spaces and suggests of Do you mean…?

Signing, I clicked on the first link and noticed my fingers were shaking. I’d missed my first meds. Getting up and going across, I picked up the wooden box in which they were kept. It was empty. Placing it down, I dug out my emergency and travel boxes. The realization that no one had ordered or delivered more because of my death day hit me hard. Taking the pills I needed and downing some stimulated water from a bottle in my bag, I decided to get dressed.

If they were still going to come for me, I might as well by wearing day cloth. Opening my wardrobe, I pulled out a blue dress and matching underwear. I got changed, listening for voices or footsteps. I slipped on sandals and brushed my hair in the mirror. My skin was pale and sensitive because the blood disease. It also caused a large percentage of my veins to stand out and often makeup and clothes couldn’t keep them all hidden.

Leaving my bedroom, I walked through the house and found it empty. My parents and younger sisters were gone, but somehow I couldn’t make myself believe they were at school and work. I sat down at the kitchen table eating an apple and drinking water, reflecting on last night. We had the traditional life celebration day and done anything that I had wanted to do with my last twenty-four hours. I was forced into bed by exhaustion and that’s when they are meant to come with the killing injection.

The Interweb had told me all of this and more. My parents had been brief about it, but I hadn’t wanted to discuss it with them anyway. They had been lucky in getting the permission to have three children and they had been rewarded for having three girls in a time when that gene was down. My sisters were perfect, but for whatever reason, I had been born with the disorder and so they had shorted my life.

Finishing off my apple, I went to the front door and stepped outside. I was still expecting them to come for me. My street looked normal. Two opposite rows of small house with the road and pavement strips between. Cars were parked up, someone was walking their cloned dog, which had just spotted a cat rubbing itself against a pot plant. It was all completely normal, expect that I shouldn’t have been there.

Closing the door, I went to the phone and after a few moments of thinking dialed the services. An auto voice gave me a list which didn’t include or have anything similar to death day emergencies or services. Shrugging, I choice the last choice of Other and a ring tone started up. I had thought about trying to reach my parents, but if they thought I was already dead or else there’d been some kind of mistake, I didn’t want to put them through anything.

A dull voice answered and as I went to reply, it began listing off more numbered choices. Once again none of them seemed to fit my problem. I hung up and went back to bed. I was feeling tried and starting with aching limbs. Settling back down, I got the screen to play some classical music and wash the room in soft changing lights.

Dozing off, I told myself that something must have happened. Maybe this time I wouldn’t awake up or perhaps everything had been a dream?          

House

The house liked to eat people.

haunted house pumpkin

Beedingwood

Mick squeezed through the chained and pad locked gates as the rain turned heavy. Rise To Remain sung through the noise cancelling headphones, blocking out the vibrations of the fence. Pulling the stolen rain coat’s hood further down, he clicked on the torch. The beam of light circled on the overgrown road.

Thick branches from a dead tree lay snapped in the tall grass and weeds. The sudden image of himself and Rohan collecting them appeared. It hadn’t been raining that night and the wood had all been dry. Mick shone the torch upwards and the light darted up the trunk of the tree in question.

Aaron appeared balanced in the branches. He’d been cutting through the limbs with a small saw when Rohan and Mick had arrived. He had explained Sam and Ty- who was sort of their leader-were trying to get a fire going. Mick could dimly recall the sounds of the sawing and the dead tree snapping. Aaron had climbed down afterwards and collected an arm full of sticks before they had headed back with their loads.

He dropped the torch back to the overgrown road. There was no point in gathering the rest of the wood, it was far too wet. Hoping there might be some dry sticks still left over, Mick started on the road. The faces of his friends seemed to join him as he scrambled through the dripping foliage. Rohan with his bright red hair in a stubby ponytail, was the shortest of the group. He also had a pinkie finger missing on his left hand and was colour blind. What had he been wearing that night? It had properly been black or dark coloured like the rest of the Goth gang wore.

Aaron, trailing behind them, was the strongest and the tallest. He went to the gym and took steroids out of habit and addiction. His dyed black hair was the shortest and he spoke very little. His boots and ripped jeans had been covered in mud. Though he wouldn’t say where he’d been and it had seemed too dry for so much wet dirt.

The road went upwards and Mick followed it, banishing his friends from his mind. A few minutes later, he stopped to catch his breath and look around. He was standing at what seemed to be the top of a large hill in a field. The road headed to his right and climbed another hill. The bushes and trees stretched out on either side as far as he could see. He shook out the rain coat, which was doing a great job of stopping the rain soaking him. However, he really was starting to feel cold and wet. It couldn’t be much further now, could it?

He moved off again and System of a Down came on his IPod and through the headphones. It was hard going on the slippery grass, but under them small stones gave his boots some stability. His torch light shook across the ground and he was finding it hard to catch his breath. He stopped on the decline and forced his breathing to steady. Opening his eyes, he stared through the growing darkness and sheet rain to see the outline of a massive structure a few feet ahead of him. System started to fade and the IPod shuffled another of their songs on.

The road met a widening driveway, which was divided by another pair of gates, half hidden under ivy. One of the gates was open slightly because the hinges were broken. Mick stepped through and gazed up at the building now in his sight. Once it had been a glorious early Victorian mansion, but now it had been left to rot. The white paint covering the roman columns had peeled away. Ivy and other climbing plants had wrapped themselves around everything. A handful of ground floor windows had been boarded up and the others were either missing or broken. An eerie atmosphere hung over the place as if it was a dead body.

Forcing away his fears, Mick walked up to the front doors just as he had done a week before. His light hit an orange glob on the floor and he aimed the torch down. Sat by the right side door, a rotting pumpkin had sunken in on itself and collapsed. He recoiled at the sight and pushed against the other door. In a flash, he could see the Jack O’ Lantern grinning at him. The candle inside had been casting burning welcoming light on to his face.

The door gave way with a loud shuddering groan and Mick, hurrying inside, pushed it shut again. Iron Maiden’s Chains of Misery echoed through the headphones, filling his head with calming notes. The foul air of the house flooded his nose with each desperate breath he drew. He still couldn’t put his finger on all the different scents that rose within the thick dust. Waving the beam of light, he ordinated himself and crept into the first room to his left.

Alongside the music in his ears, he could hear Ty’s voice telling him and the others about that room. It had originally been a guest waiting room in the mansion and had stayed that way when the house had become a school and home for mentally and physically disabled children. Mick shone his torch about. There were two long sofas and a small table set before a fireplace. This was where it had all began.

He went over to the fireplace, which contained a heap of ashes and bits of burnt wood. Off to the side was a pile of sticks, logs, newspapers and a match box. Thanking his luck, Mike began to build a fire, recalling as he did so Ty and Sam building one as he and the other two had arrived. Sam had been scrunching up balls of newspaper mismatched painted finger nails. His multi-coloured hair covered his face and his glasses were sliding off his nose. Ty had been lighting candles, his leather jacket clinking with all the metal elements adoring it. His spiked up Mohawk seemed to dominate the room and his piercing purple eyes had fixed onto them as they entered.

Removing the coat, Mick also slipped the headphones off and let the last few moments of Maiden echo in the room. He struck a match and set a ball of newspaper a lit before dropping it into a circle of more paper and wood. The flames took and licked around the wood hungrily. The fire cracked and sparked, adding its own sound track to the beginnings of a Disturbed song, which Mick only half recognize.

As he feed and watched the fire, his thoughts swirled back again. He had lied to his parents and the police, telling them he was at a Halloween night out with his friends in Liverpool. He had gotten drunk and couldn’t remember much of the latter part or what his friends had been up to. Truthfully though, he knew all the details with an odd clarity.

Mick poked a long stick into the fire, stirring it up a little, which caused the fire to hiss. They had gathered here, in this place that Ty had called his second home and had been his escaped from foster parents. They had drunk straight vodka, JD, cider and Morgan’s, had talked girls, music, movies, life, had laughed and shouted over ghost stories. Then Ty had offered around some tablets. Taking them, they had left to hit their favourite night clubs and bars. More drinks and loud music had flowed, washing together and creating a never ending night.

They had ended back here with some girls. Rolling around on the sleeping bags covered floor and the creaking springs of the sofas. Sweaty bodies shimmered in candle light, gasps and delightful cries had roamed through the room, black lipstick had coated skin and bite marks had been left behind. He couldn’t remember the girls’ names, or what they looked like clearly as it seemed they had been a reflection of themselves. Laying there, in a tangle of naked skin and displaced dust, Mick remembered one of the girls’ asking the name of the house.

Beedingwood, Ty had replied then in a smoke haze had told tales of the manor house and the school. They had listened, hooked to the horse voice as they smoked and drank. Mick tried to recall one of the stories but couldn’t. They had all sounded so legendary and mysterious. Afterwards, Ty had offered them another hit and there had been more sex. Sleep had come, restless and hot. Mick had woken from it with the soft voices of the girls in his ears. They were dressing and leaving. He lay still, listening to them until the doors had shut and their voices had faded with the remains of the night.

It was then that all the trouble had started. Mick had woken, struggling into his clothes and boots before going to relief himself. Coming back, he’d found most of the others awake with only Aaron still wrapped up in a sleeping bag. They had tried to wake him, but he wouldn’t budge. Mick had shook him and noticed his chest wasn’t moving. He had stuck a hand over Aaron’s mouth and nose and felt no breath tickling his skin. Cautiously, he had called Ty over, who confirmed his findings. Together, they had come up with a plan and they had carried Aaron out of there in a sleeping bag. They headed to his house, carefully sticking to side routes and avoiding everyone. Somehow, they had made it and arranged Aaron in his bed.

Ty had given them further instructions and gone over all the possibilities as they had left and headed separate ways. His predications had come true and the next day there police at their doors, announcing Aaron’s death and questioning them. They had all stuck to the story Ty had told them, which beside from Beedingwood, the drugs and the girls, was the truth.

Mick threw some more wood on to the fire and looked across at the sofa Aaron had died on. He couldn’t help wondering if his spirit was now trapped here, like the other ghosts Ty had talked about. Though, he didn’t really believe in ghosts or an afterlife. The police had now concluded their case as an accidently overdose via a drug and alcohol cocktail. The gang had never been to blame, but Mick knew he’d feel haunted by it for the rest of his life.

Doll

Kinsey admired herself in the long mirror. Her Halloween costume was perfect, even if she did say so herself. Gently, she rearranged the tight blond curls over her shoulders and realized for the first time that for once she was happy with her hair. All the wigs she had looked at had been nice and suitable enough, but she just hadn’t found the right one. Instead, she had decided to style her own hair and the hours of curling had paid off.

The days practising her makeup had also come full circle and now the cracked face of a porcelain doll reflected back to her. Kinsey pouted her full and heavily redden lips as she posed. I so need a pic of that! Right now! She thought. Gripping her IPhone, she took a few snaps then flipped through them. It could almost be a real doll’s face. Smiling, she selected the best one and Tweeted it.

Bouncing back in front of the mirror, she fiddled with the large blue bows on the end of the skirt. The actual dress has been an afterthought, which was strange for conscious fashion Kinsey. However, a month of searching the internet and shops had proven fruitless for anything close to what she had wanted. Luckily, she had talked a dress maker into designing and creating her idea. Now the blue and white pinafore dress, with a large, but short puffed up skirt, really brought her doll face to life.

She took a few fuller pics to show off the dress, before going over to her bed. A pair of white leather boots, a blue sun hat and a blue velvet pouch bag was lying together near a pile of scatter cushions. Sliding the phone into the bag, Kinsey squeezed into the boots and balanced the hat on her head. Now her costume was really complete.

The doorbell ring, dimly echoing through the massive house and Kinsey heard Mrs Buzan answering it. The grandfather clock struck up the hour chime and with another quick check in the mirror, Kinsey picked up her pouch bag and hurried down the stairs. The hall and porch lights were on and she came to the bottom of the stairs she could see her best friends shadowed in the front door frame.

Thanking, Buzan, she stepped outside. Warm October air trailed across her makeup plastered skin and her nose flared at the autumn scents. Two Jack o’ Lanterns sat in pools of light flanking the porch steps and a bowl of candy on a stand stood to the side of the door. Kinsey twirled for her friends, who laughed and applauded, before they inspected each other’s’ costumes, causing more giggling and posing from the four teenagers. Abbey was dressed as a Playboy Bunny, Alicia as a sexy Snow White and Destiny as a corpse bride.

Chatting away, they climbed into Abbey’s car and drove to the party. Kinsey kept glancing out of the window on the way. The houses all seemed dimly light and heavily decorated with Halloween props. Kids and adults all dressed up roamed the streets, becoming to the unknowing eye as the gates of Heaven and Hell had let loose the supernatural.

The party was well underway when they arrived and it was easy to blend in. Loud music rocked the house, mingled with the shouts and laughter of the teenagers. Alcohol flowed, the sticky scent mixing with wafts of hot food, sugary treats and perfume. Kinsey’s costume was admired greatly and her throat grew raw with thanking people. Finally though, she found her boyfriend amongst a tangle of zombie football players.

She spent the rest of the night dancing and drinking with him. She couldn’t remember leaving the party or saying goodbye to her friends as the sudden night chilling air blasted through her. Kinsey stopped and glanced around the empty street. Her arm slipped from her boyfriend’s, but he quickly grabbed her shoulders. Faintly, she could hear him asking if she was okay. He reminded her, that they were walking back to her house and they were nearly there. Kinsey felt nauseas and dizzy. She wanted to sit down, but she tried to do so, her boyfriend hauled her up and supported her fully. They carried on walking down the street, her feet dragging.

Finally, she was lowered on to a bed and Kinsey flopped out. Her limbs felt numb and heavy. Her head was still spinning and though the need to throw up was burning her throat, sleep had taken her hard. Nightmares clawed through her, but somehow she couldn’t wake up. She called for her boyfriend, who she thought was asleep beside her, but he didn’t help. Twice she thought she had fallen on the floor and once she thought she was on fire. Then she finally managed to open her eyes.

A dark ceiling filled her vision, though it appeared fuzzy and she couldn’t focus on anything. Her arms felt hefty and seemed to be dragging her down. She tried to raise one hand and heard a clinking and creaking sound. Reaching up, she aimed to touch her hair but couldn’t feel anything. Panicking, she slide off the bed and went towards the full length mirror.

The reflection of a porcelain doll stared back at her.

Cut

Locking the bathroom door, I switch on the shower and turn the settings on high. The sound of gushing water and my deep breathing is harsh to my ears. Yanking off my Smashing Pumpkins band t-shirt, I drop it to the floor and press my hands to the edges of the porcelain sink. I drop my head and stare at the crack lines that scar the bowl. They remind me too much of myself.

I glance across at my inner left arm and see the latest row of thin red lines. From habit, I begin counting them. There are twelve in total. As my knuckles start to turn white, I let go of the sink and slip my right hand into my jeans pocket. My fingers touch a small plastic case and quickly recall.

Avoiding my reflection in the misting over mirror, I encourage my fingers to remove the case and place it upon the back ledge of the sink. Light bounces off the razor blades and tries to create shattered reflections on their surfaces. They are single blades for refilling shaving razors, but they are here for another purpose, which they are perfect for.

The running shower becomes a distant noise and exploring tentacles of steam fill the bathroom. I slowly, open the case and select the first blade. It has become my favourite. I run the cold tap and balance my left arm over the sink, with my elbow resting on the edge. The chosen patch of skin is over the plug hole. This is the ideal position to be in.

Gripping the razor between my fingers, I lower it down, whilst trying to control my breathing. Anticipation tickles me and I can also feel the adrenal preparing to hit me. My eyes close and I count down. Everything has to be controlled. I feel the blade touch me and I almost jump. Control. Control.

I open my eyes and press the blade down. A droplet of red and then another. They bead alongside as a spike of pain follows. Added pressure causes further hurt and red to stain the metal. I don’t like that, so I lift the blade away.  A drop of blood hits the sink. I glance down at the imperfect circle and wash the blade under the roaring tap. The water turns pink, but becomes red as I dive my arm under.

Stinging erupts with a dose of relief. Removing my arm, I inspect my new scar which blood drops are congealing over. Satisfied and feeling better, I slot the blade back then turn off the tap. Easing off my jeans and underwear, I lower the heat of the shower and get in. Hot water plummets over me washing away everything.

Perfect In Death

She was dead on the kitchen floor. I was lying beside her, staring at her from the angle that my head was at as it lay on my arm. I could see the sharpness of her jawline, some of the veins in her neck and collar bone, because her head was twisted upwards, facing the kitchen window.

I went to play with her hair, using the arm I was laying on to reach out my hand and tangle it within her sun drenched locks. I wonder if that was her natural blond shade or if she had dyed it? The hair was soft under my fingers and seemed to shimmer when it caught the sunlight coming in from the window.

I didn’t want to get up, but it was time to move. Slowly, I pulled away, careful not to disturb the position she had fallen into. Sitting up, I folded my legs and rested my hands in my lap. Her dress had rode up, revealing more than it should do, not that the tight red dress had left a lot to the imagination anyway.  I pulled it down, pinching just the edge of the silky material as I did so and covered her up.

That done I cast my eyes down her slim, tan legs and noticed that her shoes had come off her feet. Kneeling across her, I pushed the shiny red heels back into place. I licked my dry lips and moved to sit by her head. I had shut her blue eyes before, but I could still feel them staring up at me. They had been a light shade of blue, like a spring sky or crystal waters of a calm sea. Happiness had shone out of those eyes, life had shone, youth and so many other things which she was now robbed of. I noticed her lipstick was slightly smeared at the bottom edge which was closest to the floor. I wanted her to be perfect, perfect in life as in death, but to fix that lipstick smear would mean moving her head…..

I left it and traced the curve of her neck downwards. There was a thin sliver chain around her throat at the end dangled a small flat heart. I remembered it sitting in the hollow of her throat before. She was on her side now and I doubted that the heart would stay there again. I pressed the heart between my fingers and put it into the hollow. Luckily, the bones were raised and the heart rested on one of them.

Did that mean she was un-weight? I hadn’t seen any other bones sticking out…..I dipped my hands to her chest and pressed down, I felt a slight stickiness on her skin and a faint tingle of the perfume wafted over to my nose. I had forgotten that smell, it had faded somehow. No bones raised against my fingers, so I guessed she was okay. My eyes moved down, the neckline of the red dress dipped very low and it was now clinging to her skin. I pulled it out a little.

There she was almost perfect….but the scene was not. I shuffled back and stood up. I had to leave her and the kitchen to gather what was needed. Around her, I arranged the small, thin glass candle holders I had taken from the bathroom. There were six of them, one at her head, and another at her feet and then two on each side of her, spaced so that an oval shape was created. I had put in fresh candles- vanilla scented- the only ones she had left and they were a cream colour in the glass holders.

There was a box of matches on the kitchen top. I opened the box and struck the first match, it flickered out.  The smoke rose and I could smell burning. I knelt down and struck another. The flame sparked and caught this time. I lit the first candle and then lit the rest using four matches in all. I threw the used ones in the bin and then replaced the box.

How peaceful she looked, almost like she was sleeping only there were no movements and the kitchen floor shattered the image of her being comfy. The light from the candles was a gold halo on the floor and the smell of vanilla drifted upwards, covering up the scent of death which had settled on her before. She looked nice in all that red and was another satisfactory offering to the Reaper.

A noise outside drew my attention away; the low rumble of a car engine as it slowed down. There came a slight squeak of the wheel as it hit the curb. Time to leave. I went to the backdoor and after a last glance around I stepped out into the sunlight, a smile on my face.

***

I saw it in the newspaper the next day; it must have been Thursday because it was a free newspaper that got delivered through the door. I flicked through the paper over a late lunch, until I found the article; a photo of her caught my eye. A quick read of the small article showed me that everything was still fresh and the police were giving nothing anyway. I threw the paper into recycling after I had read the ads for jobs page.

I stayed inside that day, watching TV and staying away from the news. I could no longer bear hearing the reports about the murders and watching the sobbing family members begging the public to help them. Instead I watched cartoons, recalling fond memories of my childhood and wishing to be back in that innocent state.

I didn’t kill for days after that. I went out once to buy food; readymade meals, some fruit, some snacks and a bottle of blackcurrant juice. I liked the young woman at the till who severed me, she kept smiling at me- I must have looked good that morning. I didn’t want her to be next, but I had a feeling she could be. I had killed enough of my long distance friends and family members now, I had started on friends of friends and girl/boyfriends, but I knew the police were clever and would figure out who was at the centre of that circle.  I had to start on strangers and take up a different method.

It was raining. The sky was a dull grey colour and the wind was tossing around some rubbish in a corner. I was shivering in my coat, but I had to stay hidden. She must have been working a late shift, because there was no why she could have sneaked passed me. From this angle I could see the staff door and the main door. I didn’t want it to be her, but it had to be someone……

The staff door opened and into the rain she stepped. I watched as she shook out the umbrella and started walking away. I followed her, pacing slower behind her. The car park was empty, but for a line of cars and it was to one of these she was heading. I couldn’t let her get into that car. I had to take her now.

I crept up behind her and slipped the knife from my pocket. She had stopped by a small green car and was fumbling for keys. I swung my arm around her neck, she struggled and went to scream, but I drew the knife quickly across her throat. I hear her choke and felt the warm blood pouring down and across my arm. I pushed her away, but she twists around as she falls and I see her wide, brown eyes staring into mine.

I have to wait till she dies, but she’s still struggling for breath, maybe the cut wasn’t deep enough? The knife is shaking in my hand, I can’t cut her again. It was a mistake to kill her in this way….it’s not a perfect death. All that blood gushing, her struggle, the pain and fear in her face. I reach out for her with my other hand, but before my fingers can touch her warm, wet skin, a door bangs shut.

I shoot upwards, my eyes fix on the staff door and the two men walking over. I clutch the knife in my hand and flee the scene, but they see me and start yelling. I run on, my feet pounding the wet tarmac, blood dripping off the knife and the edges my coat hitting me. I hear feet pounding behind me, someone gasping for breath too closely! I get out of the car park, hit the street and take the turn off into the woods.

***

It was early in the morning and someone was banging at my front door. The sound vibrated through my head, causing a headache to fire up in my skull. I struggled out of the bed and went to the door.

“Police! Open up!”

I froze at the voice and words….Why had they come for me?

I went to the door and the voices yelled the same thing again. I peered out and saw at least four policemen on the doorstep. I opened the door and stuck my head out, “Is there a problem?” I asked.

The officer asked me my name and when I give it to him, he kicked the door in and grabbed me, shouting, “I’m arresting you for murder!”

“Murder? What? I’ve done nothing!”

He turned me around and clipped the handcuffs on telling me the normal arresting lines as he did so. I echoed the part about the lawyer and then they dragged me off into a police van. I sit in the back, eyeing the cage interior and listening to the police radio announcing things. The cuffs were tight on my wrists. The police sirens were on, so clearly they were in a hurry to get me back to the station. I had too much time to think and as a crime investigation van pulled up, I had already worked out that telling them the true just wouldn’t cut it.

I was quiet as an officer took me from the van and to the desk. I had to fill out some forms and have all my things taken from me. Then came the interview…..I lied and denied everything. It seemed my innocent act didn’t work though and as I sit before a spread of photos- staring at the dead bodies just I had left them-I decided to come clean about my actions.

It wasn’t to be believed of course.

A shaft of moonlight peered in the cell window. I shifted my head to cast I look up at the full moon as it bathed light across the sky. The jail was still echoing with voices and though I had a cell to myself I just couldn’t sleep. This was my second night and I knew time had run out for me. There was no way I could carry on my killing spree in here. So I was just going to have to face up to the fate I had been dodging for years.

As the moon disappeared behind a cloud, the cell suddenly got colder, freezing almost. I looked around, trying to see through the pitch blackness and then I was aware of a black figure appearing out of the wall. I stood up and braced myself for my last audience with the Reaper.

“I can’t kill any more,” I whispered.

He was silent.

“The pact is broken…..there can be no more deaths to allow me to keep living.”

The moon appeared, hitting the scythe he held with a bone hand as it swept downwards to my chest.