The Last House. Part 3
He ran to the doorway, and blurted out, “Oh wow!” Soon all the other kids wanted to know what he saw, and ran up to the door after him. They looked inside, and were overwhelmed by the sight before them.
A kindly old man, who had put on makeup that made him look like a zombie stood in the doorway. There was a smile on his face as he stepped back, and allowed the kids to step inside.
“Happy Halloween, children” he said with an odd intonation. No child in the room remembered ever seeing this man before, but at least he seemed friendly. Whatever suspicion they had vanished when they saw the massive tub of candy in the middle of the room. The old man must have cleared out at least an entire candy aisle just to stock as much as he had.
He stepped closer to the tub, which was almost twice as long as he was tall, and smiled again. “Now then,” he began with a soft spoken, but still strange, intonation, “I want you all to make a nice orderly line here. You’ll each get to take as much candy as you can in, oh, five seconds.”
As much candy as we can take? Ben and Tommy looked at Max. They both had giant grins on their faces. As disappointing as their night had gone, this was definitely making up for it.
“Come on now, make a line.”
The children squished together, and made a long line from the tub to the front door. The pushiest kids, doomed to futures of being high school bullies, made sure they were in the front, while the smaller children were pushed back. Max, Tommy, and Ben were all stuck in the back of the line. The three of them hoped the candy would not be gone by the time they got up there as it had with the good houses.
Beginning with the first child, and lasting through to the kids just before Max and his group of friends, each child was given exactly five seconds to dig through the candy and pile into their carrying bag or container. The line moved quickly, and no child seemed to be disappointed. Not yet anyway.
“There’s plenty for everyone, and there’s a special surprise for the last few kids,” the old man said in that same strange way.
The child in front of max approached the tub, and bent down to start his frantic candy grabbing spree. “Ah. Ah. Not yet, sonny,” the old man said as he pointed his finger up. “Not till I say when.” He looked at his pocket watch, and said, “Go.”
Max watched as the kind in front of him dug through the candy stash. It reminded him of watching a nature show on TV. He was like some carnivorous beast tearing his way through a carcass to get all the good bits before the vultures could settle in. Come on. Come on. The children’s intensity was so great that Max worried he would surely take the last of the candy. At least there’s still that surprise if it’s all gone.
“And time,” the old man said looking at his watch again.
Max saw the look on the child’s face, a look full of unadulterated excitement. Max was ready for his turn, especially after seeing another layer of candy waiting for him.
“It’s your turn, young man. Go on. Step right up.”
Max took a few steps forward, and was now standing directly in front of the candy. As he looked at the pile of confections, he noticed something unusual. The packages seemed to be moving like gentle waves trapped in the tub. The waves were making him uncomfortable, but he thought of it like being in the back seat of a car going down a bumpy road.
“Everything okay,” the old man asked with a puzzled look on his face.
Max looked over and slowly nodded his head. The old man pointed his finger in the air as he looked at his watch. “On your marks. Get set,” he started. The last part felt like an eternity to Max, who was almost too excited to contain himself. “Go,” the old man finally shouted.
Max dove in and began scooping as much chocolate, sweet and sour confections, and lollipops as he could into his hands, dragging them closer to his bag. Before that first shovel full reached his pillowcase, Max tensed up. He suddenly discovered why the candy seemed to be floating. He put the candy in his bag and then moved two more big handfuls off the waving surface. He discovered this to be the bottom layer, and saw something strange underneath. There was a small metal box, about seven or eight inches across, suspended in the water under the candy. The box was lined with what Max interpreted to be hot glue gun cartridges. They were just like the ones his mom used.
He didn’t even bother to put the candy in his bag before he started pulling the rest of it away from that same spot.
“Time,” shouted the old man, but Max took no notice. He frantically dragged package after package of candy away, feverishly digging to learn more about that box. “Your time is up, son. Give someone else a turn.” Max kept digging, and water began to splash up from the tub. Max let out small, nervous panting sounds. The other kids took notice, and grew uncomfortable. The old man darted up to him, and pulled him away. “I said, your time is up.”
The old man pulled right as Max had another good handful of candy in his hands. That handful was just enough to uncover a horrifying sight. The box Max saw was bolted onto the neck of a woman. Her headless body was floating in the tub.
Max let out a blood curdling shriek as he wriggled himself out of the old man’s arms. He ran back up to the tub to look at the corpse floating there. He could see jagged pieces of her skin and muscle folded over her disease riddled neck where the box had been attached.
He kept screaming as his hands gripped the edge of the tub. Other kids soon ran up and shrieked when they saw where they had grabbed their candy.
“Ta-da,” the Old Man yelled as he held his arm out towards the tub. “She always loved Halloween, and I knew she’d love spending it with you all.”
The screams continued, and were now so loud the neighbors must have heard them. Ben vomited as soon as he saw the body, but Tommy leaned in even closer. “What’s wrong with you guys? It’s just a dummy. Bunch a’ wussies.” Tommy reached in to the water, and was ready to show how fake the body was.
Once his hand breached the undulating surface, the woman’s sore covered hand reached up, and grabbed his. He screamed and struggled to break free. Max watched in silent horror as Tommy pleaded for his help.
“Looks like she’s found her favorite kid.”
The traumatized children stepped back as the headless woman slowly sat up from the water, and turned her upper torso to face Tommy. It reached out with its other arm, and grabbed his shoulder.
Tommy looked over at his fellow children for a brief moment. He looked terrified. He looked desperate. He looked like he knew what was coming next. He said nothing as the woman dug her fingers into his arms and pulled him back down in the water with her. The water burst up from the tub as they dived back in. Water shifted and bubbled for what felt like ages. Finally, there came the muffled sound of something cracking under the water. The jerking waves stopped. The last bubble popped, echoing in the silent room. The water seemed still again.
Max and Ben turned, and started running for the door. The old man cackled as he looked down in the water, and then looked at the fleeing children. “Where you going? Don’t you want to say hello?”
There was a loud splash, as if something made one swift movement through the water. All at once, the children froze like statues trapped in the grip of immeasurable fear. Max’s head turned back to the basin. His movement was stiff, as though someone’s hand had pushed it against his weak resistance. As he looked back, he grew more uncomfortable. She’s still moving.
Christopher Hall is an author at the beginning of his career. His background is primarily in history, and historic writing. He attended Wesley College for his undergraduate work, and Washington College to complete his MA in history. He currently works for the Delaware State Museums creating history and historical-fiction programs. He lives in Dover Delaware.