Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

The Last House. Part 2

Max’s face glowed red as the morning sun. He saw the looks on his friends’ faces as they tried to stifle their laughter. He said nothing as he turned around and held out his arms. His mother wrapped her arms around her son, and gripped him tightly. Come on mom, they’re laughing at me. “All right, honey, that’s enough of that. He’s got that candy lust,” his father said as he walked out and pulled his wife off their son. “Have a good time, and be back by seven. Got it?”

Max quickly nodded his head. “Good man,” his father said with another wink. Max saw the small tears pooling in his mother’s eyes. I’m a man now, mommy. She tearfully waved at him as she and her husband walked inside, and closed the door behind him.

“Ready to go, momma’s boy,” Tommy teased.

“Shut up,” Max replied. The three boys walked onto the sidewalk, and began their quest for candy.

They were only one hour into their festivities, yet Max already made a killing. His pillowcase, which he chose to bring instead of the traditional plastic pumpkin bucket, was a third of the way full, and getting heavier. So far, all of the houses on their street was handing out candy in larger piles than the boys had ever seen. If it kept up like this, they’d soon have enough to open their own candy store.

They passed by one of those homes infamous for doling out fruit, and saw a small contingent of outraged children hurling eggs at the front door. “We want candy,” they chanted repeatedly.  Max never liked the idea of punishing people on Halloween; it seemed too mean spirited. He knew he was raised too well to do that, but often wondered if he would become one of those jaded teenagers who turned this innocent holiday into some a dark day of hellraising. He promised himself he wouldn’t.

“I think we’re almost out of houses,” Ben said as he looked at the crayon map in his hand. He looked back over his shoulder at their starting point, and followed their progression on the wrinkled piece of paper in his hand. They were about three-fourths of the way through their quest. They still had a few houses left, apart from the ones giving out fruit or the ones that simply did not participate. “The good houses are coming up though,” he smiled, placing the paper back into his pocket. The good houses, as Ben referred to them, were the ones that gave out  the full-sized pieces of candy, and they were only one house away from the that confectionary paradise. Ben sprinted passed another of those fruit-bearing mockeries, and came up to the front door of one of the good houses. Max and Tommy stepped up to him, and looked with excitement and anticipation. This was the moment they waited for.

Tommy was the first to step up, pushing passed his friends to be the first to the door. Max and Ben quickly followed after him. Tommy rang the doorbell, and held out his back with almost arrogant anticipation. The door opened, and all three boys screamed out, “Trick or Treat!”

The elderly woman standing in the door had a sad look on her face. She held out an empty clear glass bowl and shook her head. “I’m sorry, kiddo. Looks like the others beat you to it. I’m all out of candy,” she said while closing the door.

All out of candy? So much for that damn map. Max was disappointed to say the least. Ben assured both boys that his plan was fool-proof, but the other kids in town knew to get there first.

“Sorry guys,” Ben apologized. Neither Max nor Tommy wanted to hear it.  They turned around from the house, and walked back to the main sidewalk. Surely, Ben must have worried this was a major trial in their friendship. Max kicked a rock out of his way and decided in that moment to pout in response to his disappointment.

“This is such crap,” Tommy shouted while tying the end of his pillowcase.

“I didn’t think anyone else would know to go there first,” Ben tried to make his case, but Tommy would not hear it. He took his wrapped up pillowcase and whapped Ben on the shoulder as they made their way to the next good house, only to find another group of kids hearing similarly disappointing news. This next house had also run out of candy. The night was quickly becoming a disaster.

As the boys reached the end of the street, it sunk in that their trick-or-treating festivities were over. They had passed every house in just over an hour, and had no were else to go. Max, who had looked forward to his first solo trick-or-treating experience was sorely let down. At least if his parents were with him, he could go over to the next street and collect whatever candy remained in some of those houses. He looked at the corner of the road. It was the corner of Cambridge and Chapel where that supposedly abandoned house sat. The house did not look abandoned tonight. Every window was brightly lit with the glow of Jack O’lanterns. Although Max remembered passing by the house when he darted home from school, he did not remember seeing any decorations anywhere around the property. The front door opened, and Max heard the sounds of bubbling liquids, boiling water, and the clings and clanks from a Halloween sound effect album.

As he looked at the house, Max tapped his hand against Ben’s shoulder. Ben looked at him, and sharply asked, “What?”

Max pointed at the house, and replied, “Look. I thought you said nobody lived there.”

The other two boys turned to look at the house on the corner. They were equally shocked by now highly decorated house. “Holy shit,” Tommy blurted out, and the other two boys looked at him in surprise. Tommy’s mom and dad really do let him watch whatever he wants. He somewhat understood why his parents did not like him spending too much time with Tommy. “They’re having a party. Come on, let’s check it out!”

Tommy ran forward a few steps, but stopped when he realized Max and Ben were not moving. “Come on, what’re you scared of? You guys a bunch a’ chickens or something’”

Ben and Max looked at each other. They did not liked being called out as cowards, but neither of them really felt any need to step any further to that house. After all, kids said it was haunted. “I don’t know, Tommy,” Max started, “I’m not supposed to go this far on my own.”

Tommy sighed, and then pleaded with Ben, “But you’re gonna come, right? Come on, think of all the candy they have in there!”

The thought of candy was alluring to both of the boys who now felt cheated by this side of the neighborhood. Ben looked at Max and shrugged, “I mean, there might be some good candy there. Maybe we can just take a little peek.”

Max struggled about what to do. As Ben walked closer to the house, Max looked back down the street. His house was now a tiny structure on the horizon behind him. I can still see my house, so they can still see me.

“Do it for the candy, Max. For the candy,” Tommy argued.

Max still did not like the idea of going, but he turned back around, and followed his friends to the presumably haunted house on the street corner. As they walked, more kids joined them. What’s that story my dad told me? The one where all the kids end up going missing? Max was recalling a story his father read to him when he was a few years younger. He had nightmares all night about being lured away from his bed, but could no longer remember what the story was called, or how it ended. All he recalled was how much trouble his dad found himself when his mother heard about his nightmares. Zombielike, the children all continued towards a house none of them had ever stepped foot in.

The group stopped like a regimented group of soldiers that just heard the command to halt. They all looked around at each other while a few started daring others to be the first to step inside.

“You do it.”

“No, you do it.”

“This was your idea!” The truth is, no one had the idea to venture closer to that house. They all just felt pulled towards it. As the children debated, Tommy stepped forward and declared he wasn’t afraid.

Christopher Hall

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.

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About Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her novella, Bottled, will be published by Silver Shamrock Publishing early 2020 and her ebook novelette, Asylum of Shadows from Demain Publishing is due to come out in print before the end of the year. Her poetry can also be sampled in the Horror Writer Association’s upcoming Poetry Showcase Volume 6. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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