Hey, all. Before you ask, yes I'm still working on getting the Expanded Edition of Book One out to you. And, yes, Book Two is actually finished and waiting for Book One to be picked up and re-released. So, yes, it's going to be a little bit longer. I hate it, too, but that's the writing business.
In the meantime, I've written another "The Coming Evil" short story. This one is entitled "The Last Halloween" and serves as a sort of spiritual successor to "Among the Dead". If you haven't read "Among the Dead", you can follow the links to your right or click right here and enjoy the audio production (It's quite nice). "The Last Halloween" is split into two parts. Tune back in tomorrow for the conclusion.
Hope you enjoy.
Historian’s Note: This tale begins the last Halloween before the events depicted in “The Coming Evil, Book One: The Strange Man”
“What are you supposed to be?”
Dras Weldon stared down at his costume—a mismatched ensemble consisting of a cheap cloak, some too-large workman’s gloves, a moth-eaten fedora perched atop his perpetually disheveled sandy blonde mop top, and a pair of very strange copper and leather goggles—and regarded his auburn-haired friend with sharp eyes. “Um…hello? The Weird Avenger?”
“It’s steampunk,” Dras defended.
“Mhm,” Rosalyn Myers agreed, chuckling at Dras’ expense, as she closed and locked her apartment door behind her. “Don’t you think you’re a little old for trick-or-treating?”
Dras huffed as the two twenty-somethings walked down the apartment building corridor, then downstairs and into the twilight street below. Rosalyn’s question was an all-too-familiar one, and Dras’ answer remained the same. “No,” he said flatly, a bit offended. “You’re never too old to enjoy Halloween.”
Rosalyn grinned absently, stopping on the sidewalk to unlock her car. She hopped into the driver’s seat, and Dras took his rightful place at her side, though had a spot of trouble gathering his costumed self into a bundled heap before he closed the door. His efforts proved unsuccessful, and a corner of his cloak got caught in the door and flapped in the October breeze when Rosalyn pulled away from the curb.
Inside the car, Dras bounced with childlike excitement, admiring the pumpkins and harvest time decorations that populated Greensboro. Cartoonish ghouls and black cats smiled back at him from crudely painted murals on storefront windows.
“Man! Look at that one!” Dras nearly bashed his face into the window when he spotted a colorful werewolf cutout standing behind the drugstore glass. “Coulda used more gore, though.”
Rosalyn sighed wistfully, allowing her best friend his fun, though she really wished that he’d abandon such adolescent pursuits. Halloween was fun—in small doses—but Dras would, no doubt, outdo it by dragging her to a number of costume parties, as well as the obligatory trip to Corner Video Store where he would rent Invasion of the Pod People, again. In vain she began to think of excuses to wiggle out of watching the silly sci-fi movie with him for the umpteenth time, but resigned herself to play along. She felt she owed it to Dras.
After all, this was their last Halloween together.
He didn’t know that, of course. He also didn’t know that she was beginning to fill out college applications with the hopes of finally leaving Greensboro behind and going to school somewhere across the country. A particularly picturesque campus in Vermont called to her these days, and the excitement of broadening her horizons—seeing what the world had to offer her—filled her with a sense of hope she had not felt in a long time.
But what would she tell Dras? When would she tell him?
And perhaps the scarier question: Could she really leave Greensboro and all its ghosts? Would the past really let her go?
Gazing out into the passing night, watching the carefree children in garish costumes that dotted the small town horizon, Rosalyn felt a tinge of sadness pinch her heart. The same sadness she always felt at Halloween time.
Then, as if Fate had conspired to twist the dagger of painful memories just a bit deeper, she saw a Chevette. The Chevette.
The last time she’d seen that 1983 sky blue Chevette…
It’s not the same car, is it?
Rosalyn gripped the steering wheel tighter, her dark eyed-gaze fixed to her left where the dingy ’83 Chevette sat parked at the used car lot, staring back at her.
Is that the same car?
“Yello? Not ready to die yet.”
A car honk slapped Rosalyn’s senses and she jerked the wheel, pulling the nose of her vehicle back into the proper lane. Dras sat erect in the passenger seat, looking a bit frazzled. “Keep it between the mayonnaise and the mustard, will ya?” When his sarcasm failed to elicit a response, Dras turned to Rosalyn, seeing her pale and stiff. “Hey, it wasn’t that close of a call. I’ve had worse.”
Rosalyn didn’t respond. Now he grew concerned.
“I thought I just saw my dad’s old car.”
Halloween. Back then.
Eight-year-old Rosalyn Myers and her best friend Dras Weldon—just her age, to the day—sat in the backseat of her dad’s 1983 sky blue Chevette, peering out at the decorated spectacle that was Greensboro’s Main Street. Everywhere they looked pint-sized goblins and machete-wielding maniacs, werewolves and ghouls met their wide, wonder-filled eyes. As the Chevette slowly crept by, Jack O’Lanterns smiled at them, beckoning the two friends closer to dimly lit porches and a trick or a treat beyond every front door.
As per the rules whenever they went trick-or-treating, Dras and Rosalyn were only allowed to haunt well-traveled, inviting neighborhoods. The Chevette pulled to the curb, the back doors popped open, and Dras and Rosalyn went shrieking out into the night, their cries of unbridled mirth mixing with the din of other excited trick-or-treaters. Rosalyn dressed as a witch that year, all black gown and pointy hat and a fake, warty green nose strapped to her face. Her mother had protested, of course.
Meredith Myers, a girlie girl if ever there was one, pleaded with her daughter to dress as something more ladylike and becoming—like a ballerina, princess, fairy, or cheerleader. Whether she was following her own tastes or doing her best to exasperate her mother, Rosalyn stuck to the witch’s costume all the same and loved every second of it.
“Hey!” her dad called warmly from the Chevette, pointing to something in the front seat beside him. “You forgot your broom!”
Rosalyn skidded to a stop, still clutching her plastic pumpkin basket, and looked back at her father, his ponytail lightly waving in the breeze, and a somewhat goofy smile lighting up his stubbly face. He looked almost as excited as the trick-or-treaters who passed to and fro between them on the sidewalk. Rosalyn hurried back to the car, popped the door open, and grabbed the broom she’d confiscated from her mother.
“Thanks, Dad,” she muttered, slightly embarrassed, but thankful for his good-natured assist.
Her dad winked, “Bring me back some Sugar Babies or something. I’m starving out here.” Rosalyn grinned and rushed back to Dras’ side.
Dras, meanwhile, watched the witch approach with shades of disappointment, and Rosalyn felt momentarily guilty for having such a great costume. That year for Halloween—as every year—Dras was going as an unassuming little boy whose parents wouldn’t buy him a costume. Dras’ father, Jack Weldon, was the most respected pastor in their small town of Greensboro, and there were those in his congregation who avoided Halloween altogether. Jack didn’t mind a little Halloween fun, but Dras’ mother refused to allow her son, who came from “a good Christian household”, to go out parading on “the Devil’s holiday”. So the Weldons compromised, with Jack adopting a strict “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy where Dras’ October 31st endeavors were concerned. Dras was allowed to go out on Halloween, but his mother was not going to buy him a costume or even a decorated bag to catch chocolate treats.
Thankfully, Rosalyn’s dad had procured for Dras a ghost bucket of his very own, for which the little boy was most grateful.
“Ready?” Rosalyn asked, catching up to Dras, their baskets already heavy with candy goodness.
“I get to knock this time,” Dras declared.
Rosalyn rolled her eyes. “You knocked at the last house.”
A sigh escaped Rosalyn, mature beyond her years. “You’re such a child.”
Dry autumn leaves swirled around their feet as the two friends scurried up porches, joining the ranks of their enthusiastic kin. Dras raced to the nearest two-story house and pounded hard, grinning ear to ear.
A short, heavily-made up platinum blonde woman answered, dressed professionally, as though she’d just come home from the office. “Well, hi there, Dras.”
“Hey, Miss Lidell!” Dras beamed, holding out the ghost bucket. “Trick or treat!”
Miss Lidell, despite the dull, tired shine in her eyes happily obliged, dumping a lion’s share of goodies into Dras’ bucket. Rosalyn immediately stepped in line to receive hers, and could not help but spot the pack of Sugar Babies lying in the heap of Miss Lidell’s Halloween stash. When Miss Lidell instead handed her a couple pieces of taffy, Rosalyn blurted out, “Oh! Can I have one of those, too?”
Rosalyn glanced toward the street, where her father smiled back through the rolled-down window of the Chevette.
“It’s for my dad.”
The ’83 Chevette remained in Rosalyn’s mind for the rest of the night. An ever-present intruder, it continued to stare at her from the used car lot in her mind no matter where Dras led her on his latest Halloween extravaganza.
She was only half-conscious of the here-and-now when Dras banged on a familiar door. A tired woman, now older, but still pleasant, emerged, expecting knee-high visitors.
“Hey, Miss Lidell!” Dras beamed, holding up a large sack, just begging to be filled by delicious sweets. “Trick or treat!”
Miss Lidell’s brows met in quizzical conference. “Dras, aren’t you a little old—” she hesitated and shouted over his shoulder to the plainclothes beauty on the sidewalk behind him. “Isn’t he a little old for trick-or-treating?”
Rosalyn shrugged indifferently, still thinking about the Chevette. In a moment Dras joined her at the yard’s edge, somewhat deflated. Rosalyn walked on pensively, Dras in tow, until his grumpiness finally demanded her attention.
“What’d she give you?”
Dras automatically reached into his bag, grabbed the offensive material, and held it before her, presenting his case. “Dental floss.”
Rosalyn perked up. “Ooh.”
Dras halted. “Ooh? Here we are, on Halloween night—the night when anything is possible—surrounded by magic and the very spirit of innocence! But it’s the dental floss that gets you excited?” The young man paused, letting the sad irony set in, then walked on, grumbling, “You’re sick. A sick heathen.”
Rosalyn did not titter or snicker or any of things she usually did when Dras made insane declarations. Instead, she remained broody and silent as they ventured the rest of the way to the video store.
Once inside, Dras yipped with joy, holding high the worn VHS copy of Invasion of the Pod People like King Arthur retrieving Excalibur. “Yes!!” Irritated patrons cut eyes his way, but Dras carried on obliviously, jogging up to where Rosalyn stood by the front window, nervously chewing her lip.
“Hey! I got it! No one checked it out yet!”
“Dras,” she began, barely audible, her mind distracted, “Look.”
Dras looked out the window, scanning the busy night. “Um…what?”
It sat parked across the street, in the grocery store’s parking lot. Facing her.
“That’s my dad’s Chevette.”
Dras lifted his steampunk goggles and squinted against the darkness. “Where?”
“I saw it earlier. Now it’s over there.” She inhaled slowly, cold air burning her lungs, as she spotted a dark shape sitting behind the wheel. Watching her. “I think it’s following me.”
READ PART TWO
Copyright 2009 Greg Mitchell