fiction

Better Than Candy: Bite-size Halloween Stories

My friend Cyndi gave me the idea to showcase some of the Halloween stories I received from the flash contest. Enjoy these bite-sized stories from Ethan Zabka, Anna Marsick, and Cynthia Hilston.

The Last Halloween 

By Ethan Zabka

“This is going to be awesome!” My friend Jeremy exclaimed. ” It’s going to be the greatest Halloween ever!”

“I agree; let’s make it the best,” I replied. After I donned my Dr. Frankenstein costume, we left.

It was a warm evening. Kids were everywhere, shouting and observing their prizes. The sunset was beautiful, an explosion of pink and yellow in the sky.

The first 5 houses we visited were generous, giving us Hershey bars and King-Sized Reese’s. As we were strolling, we came across a hideous creature, who fell in step with us after Jeremy remarked how he completed my Frankenstein apparel. The monster’s makeup was almost perfect, and his yellow eyes glimmered in the dusk. He wasn’t talkative, just keeping in step with me and munching on chocolate.

Soon, the moon came out, often hidden by dark clouds scudding across the sky. A chilly wind started to blow, and rain sprinkled down. Jeremy departed for home, tired. The monster and I kept on, gathering candy.

I left the monster when I realized the time. I would have to take the shortcut through the woods to make it home before midnight.

I was nearly home when I bumped into something large.

It wasn’t a tree.

The monster-man.

A lightning flash divulged a ragged rip in his cloak, revealing a mottled chest, metal pieces poking from green flesh. The sight paralyzed me with fear.

He was real.

Thunder boomed like artillery fire. I screamed as he seized me and hissed, “Curse you, Frankenstein! You have come back from the grave to cause me anguish!”

“But Frankenstein-”

“All who bear the name Frankenstein deserve to die, to have no happiness here!” His eyes blazed with rage as the thunder crackled. “I end this once and for all!”

I felt his fingers close around my neck.

Love Wins

By Anna Marsick

*Ping* goes my phone. I lay on my bed, pillow sodden with tears. I flip over, refusing to acknowledge that deplorable dimwit who sources my rueful feelings. One minute I’m in love, the next I’m drowning in my tears. I still can’t believe he didn’t take me to homecoming because he had to work out. I hate relationships.

*Ping* I roll my eyes, ignoring it and muttering, “Not accepting apologies today, buddy. Go flirt with your dumbbells. They’re probably smarter than me anyway.”  Suddenly, I hear a *thunk, thunk, THUD* at my window. Spooked, I spring off my bed.

“Oww!” I scream-whisper, creeping to the window, seizing a pink slipper that will protect me from the predator who’s summoned me. Heart pounding, I cautiously peer out of my window into the gloomy night and am greeted by a rock hitting my forehead. “Stand down!” I yelp, “I have a weapon, and I’m not afraid to strike!”

“Hi, Baby! Come out here!” replies the hooligan. “What in the? Myles? What are you… never mind. Go away.” I begin to shut my window as he bellows, “Wait! I’m sorry. I’m a bad boyfriend. Let me make it up to you. Please. Come out here, dance with me under the stars. I made a playlist and brought a dress for you… I love and care about you.”

“That’s cute. Bye,” I say, shaking my head and preparing to retreat. I steal one last glance at his face. Aw man. The pleading gaze in his eyes causes me to cave in. I gingerly climb out of my window, into his arms. Expeditiously, I slip into the dress, and we become one under the stars… united in rhythm. As we sway to the music, he murmurs, “I love you.” I love relationships.

Credit: Jean-Philippe Delberghe

Halloween Date Night 

By Cynthia Hilston

The elusive they say opposites attract. Herman didn’t know who they were.
He looked over his phantom face in the mirror. The stitches holding his smile broke. Rotten teeth were a turn-off for most women.
“What sort of zombie puts a profile on a dating site?”
It was done on a dare. Who says the undead can’t have a life? Ed, ever a charmer and a drunk in this half-afterlife, told Herman he would be happier if he went out more. Halloween was coming. She would think Herman was a brilliant costume.
This she was as elusive as the they who made ridiculous claims like opposites attract.
Herman pulled up to her house in his 1966 Chevy on Halloween. She glowed with the setting sun as she stepped outside like an angel meant to take him to Heaven.
Heaven isn’t for zombies who eat brains, even reformed zombies, thought Herman. If he had a beating heart, it would have thumped out of his tattered chest beneath his new clothes.
“The clothes,” said Ed, “were important. You can’t go around looking completely dead.”
His already rigid body stiffened as he remembered his manners, exited the car, and opened the passenger door.
The light of Heaven shone down with her smile. “Happy Halloween…Herman.”
“Hello, Brenda.” He shouldn’t have gorged on a stray cat’s brains before coming here, a chunk of grey matter lodged in his throat. “Where to?”
“You look like a vintage kinda guy. There’s a malt shop in town. You know it?”
He nodded.
A little while later, they shared a table and a strawberry shake. She leaned into him and took his hand. He twitched, trying to pull away.
Yet she was as cold as him.
She giggled. “Don’t worry, Herman. It’s Halloween. This is all a costume.”

 

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Homeschool Life

Flash Contest Winners!

How exciting to see 19 entries for what became a Halloween-themed flash fiction contest! My students regularly create a flash story as part of my class, and a good competition throws our motivation into high gear. Thank you to my blogging friends, writing friends, and friend-friends who participated and made the collection of stories diverse and compelling. I hope they were as fun for you to write as they were for me to read.

Many thanks to our judge, Laura Kennelly. I always appreciate the objectivity of blind judging (no names/credentials associated with the entries).

Laura worked as a freelance arts columnist and reporter for the Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, and served as associate editor for BACH, a scholarly journal about J. S. Bach and his circle, published by the Riemenschneider Bach Institute at Baldwin-Wallace College. At the University of North Texas, she was editor of The Avesta, the campus literary magazine, as well as an arts writer for the Campus Chat. Check out her weekly column in CoolCleveland.com.

And now…the winning flash stories:

1st Place – Stealing Hearts and Minds by Keith Kenel

Great start and funny finish. Nice dark humor. – Laura

Jane was known for stealing hearts: She also liked to collect other body parts, but hearts were her hands down favorite. She longed for romance hot as a five-alarm-fire, a boyfriend so salsa that he was off the Scoville-Chili-Pepper-Scale. Her fruitless search for a boy that swept her off her feet left Jane feeling dead and empty inside. She knew the warm, loving embrace of a custom-made-mensch was just what the cardiologist ordered, and since her search for a proper boy-born-of-woman had proven fruitless the ghoul, er girl, decided to create the perfect boyfriend, bit-by-bit and piece-by-piece.

It started innocently enough, a stolen glance, a stolen kiss, but soon Jane went from misdemeanor infractions to major felonies; breaking into hospitals and stealing dialysis patients’ kidneys, cataract sufferers’ eyeballs and tipplers’ livers. Her constructive surgery had been slow, but she finally had her golem, her synergistic masterpiece that was far greater than the sum of her stolen and quilted parts. Jane had her mensch and he was fine as frog-fur, a cover that’s known to be mighty fine.

Having leapfrogged over obstacles, tonight she and her made-man Verde Greenia were stepping out for the first time. She’d selected a romantic French restaurant that featured spécialités du tuyau guaranteed to get libidinous juices flowing. The evening began with champagne and oysters-on-the-half-shell and would end with juicy-juicy-mangoes, figs and dark chocolate. Jane ordered Quiche Lorraine while Verde selected cerveaux.

Verde was perfectly attentive, a boy literally made to order, and dinner was sublime. Dinner was sublime that is until the main course arrived. It was then that Verde grunted, “Brains!” and lopped off the top of Jane’s head and devoured her cerveuax, proving once again that no matter how charming the zombie, brains are always at the top of his mind.

2nd Place – Halloween Love by The Dark Netizen

I liked the irony of the “same time next year” set up and the “potential tooth decays.” – Laura

I sat in the diner, looking out of the nearest window.

The street was bustling with activity. I could see all sorts of weird monsters and creatures of terror roaming about. After all, it was Halloween night, and everyone had something to do. The children were scurrying about in their cute costumes, angling for as many potential tooth decays as they could. The adults were party hopping, all gussied up in the sexy versions of vampires, werewolves, and other famous monsters, or rather whichever costumes were available in the store.

It was almost midnight. I was extremely excited. It had been so long since I had been on a date. I knew I was looking great. The hungry stares that had followed me ever since I got out of my house were evidence enough. However, I couldn’t help but have butterflies in my stomach. I figured I would drown them with some ice cream soda. Just as the soda arrived, I noticed a figure wearing a slightly old fashioned, but expensive looking suit. My date had finally arrived.

I watched as the love of my life shuffled into the diner and made his way slowly to where I was sitting. As he approached me, he fetched out a rose from his pocket and offered it to me. He was so romantic. I took the rose from him and kissed him on the cheek.

He moaned in delight. I asked him how the year had gone for him. He moaned in response. Okay yes, I do speak zombie. Yes, the love of my life is of the undead variety. However, I loved him and he loved me. This was the only night of the year we could meet and celebrate our love.

Our Halloween Love…

3rd Place – Untitled by Ella Steyer

Nice switch from the usual POV. – Laura

My mind excelled in areas similar to these. The humans bustling from shop to shop, the fragrance of unhealthy food, and the racket of motion from every which way. The noises varied from a woman speaking with her colleague to a taxi screeching to a halt. I strolled across the hectic sidewalk, remaining near my companion. He used to be uneasy of the unknown streets, but we’ve grown fond of them. Our daily walk helped us improve together.

Of course, not all was pleasant. My companion didn’t witness the stares we received or the whispers following, but I did. Some days we walked with confidence, while others we struggled with the monumental obstacles. The world consisted of people good and bad. It wasn’t complicated to recognize the difference. On one challenging walk, a young boy pretended to trip my companion, simply to gain laughter from his friends. I growled at them until each was out of sight.

The morning of our last walk, the street was busier than usual. My mind stayed on high alert as we strolled up to the crosswalk. My companion and I started stepping across the street in a leisurely manner. All was fine; until the screeching came. The impact tore me to the ground, skidding across the concrete. The urgent voices rang out before everything went black.

The day of our last walk continuously disturbs me. My heart yearns for the kindness I found in my companion, but that morning in the bustling city was my last few moments with him. I had failed in sustaining his safety. The therapy in our relationship worked both ways. My reason in life was gone, and among it took my loving companion away from me.

Congratulations to the writers who challenged themselves to create something where before, something didn’t exist.

fiction

Say It: A Halloween Horror Story

“That’s quite a costume, young ma– … er… are you a boy, or a girl? I can’t tell under all that make up.”

The childlike thing shook a head, but made no answer. The widow Hann held upwards of $37 worth of chocolate in her lap, and she wasn’t giving it up to rude, ungrateful children who couldn’t be bothered to answer a simple question. Theses kids were getting more and more ill-mannered every year.

The zombie child reached a veined, pinkish hand into the bowl.

Mrs. Hann snatched it away. “Not so fast.”

The costume was stunning. Or the paint was still wet. It glistened in the inconstant light of Mrs. Hann’s tiki torches and carved pumpkin display. “Say ‘Trick or treat first.'”

It shook its head more violently. A low guttural sound issued from lips that dripped red paint and saliva.

“Just say it.” The mother instructed, sloshing a glass of some alcoholic elixir. It wafted around the two of them like a third apparition.

“It.” The little monster said and reached again.

The sass.

Mrs. Hann clutched the ceramic pumpkin to her breast. Not a single piece would leave this bowl, not while blood flowed through her veins. This kid deserved a swift kick in the a–

“Trick or treat,” said a ragged, sexless, ageless voice. Mrs. Hann narrowed her eyes. The zombie smiled a huge smile full of baby teeth, strait and white as a fence. There was no choice but to offer the bounty.

“What do you say?” Mrs. Hann reminded.

“It.”

Mrs. Hann’s mouth was in an “O.” First, in shock at such brazen, deplorable behavior. The mother had already started down the sidewalk to the next house, and the waif scuttled after her.

The next little gang of ingrates skipped up the driveway. “Trick or treat!”

Mrs. Hann hadn’t recovered her speech. The children helped themselves, squealing in delight.

But the squeals turned to shrieks, then to shrill siren screams. The children were the first to see, and they yanked their hands, sending the bowl and its contents flying. Wrapped candy projectiles flew up like a bees from the lap of Mrs. Hann. The ceramic bowl slid off her ample thighs and shattered, sending orange and white shrapnel skidding.

Neighbors drifted over, curious at the uproar. Some children retreated, the ones who saw. Others cautiously maneuvered for a better look at widow Hann, whose mouth still hinged open, whose eyes drooped, wider and wider, until one by one they fell from their sockets with an almost merry pop! ….and dangled from the optic nerves like jewelry. The tiki torches flamed high, many feet into the night sky, revealing Mrs. Hann as a driftwood being: cracked and grey and greying further. Until not a drop of blood flowed in her veins.

This flash made me $25 in the GNB Writers Block Halloween Contest! I’m grateful for the opportunity to have fun writing. The cash is icing.

Personal Journey, Politics

Hollow. Ween. A Zombie Tradition I Wish Would Just Die Already

GravestoneSkeletonPopsUpMore disgusting and mutilated than any front yard ornament or trick-or-treat costume I’ll see this year is the philosophy behind this “cultural tradition” we call Halloween. Yes, some of you will hate me when I’m done.

An impressionable sapling of a boy was riding in the car with his mom one day when he made this remark: What I like best about Halloween is that everyone gives away candy and you don’t  have to pay any money for it.

Wait.  What?  I nearly threw my computer across the room.  I thought I’d gotten lost in cyberland and was redirected to the democratic party platform or the Affordable Care Act website.  Everyone givesand you don’t have to pay any money for it?!?  I’m not very good at math, but even I know that if everyone is giving, someone is paying money for it.  Just not him– the recipient of the windfall.  But he’s just a kid, right?  He can’t be expected to understand that, can he?  That is the lie our culture perpetrates on young minds.  Thanks for stating it so succinctly, kid.

ZombieAttackUncleSamOf course someone is paying for it; Halloween candy doesn’t grow on trees.  But that’s precisely the problem with our culture and is laser-spotlighted by this boy’s dewy remark.  We teach, sometimes overtly and sometimes through our traditions that it’s possible there really is a free lunch out there somewhere, that it’s possible for everyone to give and for no one to pay.  Isn’t that what we were promised back in 2008 by a certain candygiver, our national SugarDaddy?  But I know many people who are paying for the candy now. And they’re not happy about it.

It gets worse.  His Mom writes:  We all agreed heartily and even as we said so it sunk in further how right he is.  Halloween may be the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A. Seriously. Candy is handed out to our friends’ children, our neighbors, and complete strangers all the same. And people who give out treats on Halloween expect virtually nothing in return.  Maybe just a thank you.

Then the coup de grace (again from Mom): Is there any other cultural tradition that compares when it comes to the spirit of altruism?

If Halloween is “the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A.” then we may as well build bunkers in the backyard because we’re doomed.  Seriously.  If our greatest act of selflessness, of altruism is to give fun-size chocolate bars to kids dressed up in disturbing costumes, we are an empty, vaporous people, valueless, clueless, and without a scaffold of truth on which to hang anything meaningful.  This is the Kool-Aid of the default culture; it’s the Common Core Curriculum of our moment-by-moment reality: the idea that there is no ultimate responsibility.  Everyone gets and no one gives.  And no one is ever wrong either. Don’t miss that. It’s the real pollution we breathe day in and day out.  It whispers to us in the sidebar ads, screams in the commercials, and lies seductively all throughout the show.  If we don’t step in front of the media tsunami that is our culture, we too will wake up and think the best thing to happen to us is hollow.  Hollow. Ween.  

The greatest act of altruism happened 2000 years ago.  Sorry.  I know it’s not popular right now. But it wasn’t then either.  It was so unpopular that it just might have killed you to sign on.  Now that’s a scary proposition.  But it didn’t deter them from signing on in droves.

jesussaves_zps03aa62fc

Other than that, I don’t hate anything about the innocuous holiday known as Halloween. Trick-or-treat until your heart’s content.  Dress up. Have fun.  Don’t forget to thank the person who did spend quite a bit of dough on your boon.  And learn as much as you can about the other altruistic days we celebrate.  Please.  Oh please do learn so you won’t think Halloween is the pinnacle of goodness on this earth.  Oh, and the word– holiday originally meant “holy day,” as in celebration of something holy, like God. Sadly, for many people, it now just denotes a hollow day.  There really was someone who didn’t stay dead.  And He didn’t look like a mutilated zombie either, which is probably why His story won’t die. Either that– or it’s true.