We're proud to deliver our Halloween podcast, featuring our contest's winning story "Hear Me" by Jillian Bost.
Jillian Bost is an avid reader and writer, and a keen horror movie fan.
You can follow her at https://twitter.com/JillianBost
Listen to her story here: http://rinoacameron.libsyn.com/website/halloween-special-from-feed-your-monster
For more treats read on, we have three more fantastic tales for you, starting with our second prize winner "Changing Traditions" by Justin Zimmerman. (We'd also like to wish him Happy Birthday!)
Justin Zimmerman was born on Halloween which doomed him to a lifetime obsession with all things dark and macabre. His stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. He lives in New York with his wife, Melanie, and way too many cats. Follow him on Twitter: @JDZimWriter
By Justin Zimmerman
Merlot sloshed over the side of the glass as she slammed it down on the table. Leaning back in the chair she looked out the window. The sun setting behind the clouds made the streetlights glow and bathe the neighborhood in a cozy light. Candles burned around her and she crossed her arms. The corners of her mouth pulled into a frown. Halloween, her most hated day, was here.
A black cat laid at her feet and stared out the window with yellow eyes. From a speaker near the window came the sounds of blowing winds, creaking tree limbs, and the occasional scream. The balcony featured hanging orange lights, jack o lanterns, and a grim reaper holding a sign that read, “Scream Trick R Treat for Candy.”
The balcony set up was her creation, but the idea of tossing candy to children from their first floor apartment was her husband's. He loved the holiday and one Halloween, years ago, he stood in the kitchen alternating glances between ghosts, monsters, and superheroes walking the street and a bowl of candy. After grabbing the attention of the kids and throwing treats, a crowd formed and soon the bowl was empty.
Joyful memories of that night lasted throughout the year and, by the following September, there were plans in place to make it even better. That was when the grim reaper with the sign came into their lives and, after another successful Halloween, she came up with the idea to move the operation into the living room where they could be comfortable and toss treats from the balcony.
That night the two of them sat in their chairs, sipping wine, and smiling as happy children ran to their window. It was their last happy Halloween.
The enjoyment of that night didn't last and they barely made it to next Halloween as a couple. By autumn, they only spoke to each other when it was necessary. They did the usual preparations for the night in silence and she remembered thinking even the cat could feel the tension. It was, as often happens, a mild event that lead to an explosion of anger. The grim reaper was missing. He wasn't in the usual spot in the closet where he hung for 364 days and her husband blamed her for its misplacement.
She remembered looking into eyes that once showed love and admiration and seeing only hate and resentment. She wondered if he could see the same in hers. She recalled the way her muscles tensed and heart pounded and that she never thought she could feel that angry. There was a moment of panic when he came toward her and, in that moment, he seemed like a stranger. To this day she's not sure how the knife ended up in her hand and then his chest. There was more panic as she watched him collapse, but she felt surprised satisfaction as she dragged him to the bathroom.
She felt bad about missing the trick or treaters that night, but there were more pressing matters. The work she was doing in the bathroom first and foremost. It took a sharp knife and many black trash bags, but soon he was out of the apartment and, in the morning, the garbage men took him from her life forever. When that was done she made Facebook posts about the end of their relationship on her page and a need to travel and find himself on his.
Twelve happy months passed and she was surprised to find that, as Halloween neared, she missed his infectious, childlike excitement. She laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, and thinking about the early days and the happiness they shared. From across the apartment came a noise. It was a low creaking and, after failing to convince herself it was the wind, she rose from the bed.
“Hello?” she said but the only response was more creaking.
She made her way across the apartment as the cat dove under the bed for safety. The noise continued and her hands trembled as she drew closer to the spare bedroom. Rounding the corner, she saw him. His back was to her but she knew it was him. Her husband was shuffling through the closet. She gasped and he turned and looked at her with dark, sunken eyes and a deep wound in the middle of his chest.
“Where's the grim reaper?” he said. “It's almost Halloween.”
She dropped to the floor and, when she woke up, it was late afternoon. She stumbled into the kitchen while telling herself it was just a dream and saw paper on the table. Written on the paper, in something red and wet, was a list.
1. Find Grim Reaper.
2. Buy Candy.
3. Carve Pumpkins.
She crumpled the paper and threw it away.
That night she kept the lights off and grimaced whenever she heard the sounds of happy children. She curled up in bed and was almost asleep when she heard a shriek followed by loud banging. She bolted upright and cursed at the cat as it once again hid under the bed.
She peered into the living room and saw him, leaping up and down and shouting, “We missed Halloween.”
He turned and saw her and the roar that came from his mouth was so loud that she felt her brain rattle inside her skull.
She awoke on the floor the next day, grateful that it was November until she saw another note on the table. It read, “365 days.”
The notes appeared sporadically, sometimes with just a number and other times with specific instructions. As Halloween neared there were instructions to carve pumpkins, buy candy, and get more candles.
She tossed a handful of treats from the balcony and turned to her chair. In the chair next to hers, sat the smiling apparition of her husband with the still bleeding chest wound.
She plopped done on the chair, took a gulp of her wine, and said, “Fuck Halloween.”
Still hungry? We hope you are because the third course is coming right up. We're proud to offer you "Rotten Ice Cream" Nick Manzolillo. In this his debut publication, Nick demonstrates his up and coming talent.
Rotten Ice Cream
By Nick Manzolillo
Damn it. Ralph’s spoon splatters droplets of chocolate across the table as he raises his hands to his frontal lobe. "Brain freeeze," Ralph groans, and his buddy Max starts giggling. “Fuuuuuuck, it’s not funny!” A frozen fist clenches around Ralph’s mind, and the chocolate ice cream was the good kind; creamy Breyers with almonds that he dribbled caramel syrup over.
Max, who was chomping on Ralph’s wife’s leftover watermelon from the daytrip to Weir’s lake the other day, wipes the juice from his lips and offers a suggestion. "Try some hot sauce! No, wait, it was horseradish, that’s the secret! Hot horseradish. Do we have spicy horseradish?"
"No!" Ralph screams, panicking now. He can hardly hear his own voice as the room starts to throb around him. Is it possible to die from brain freeze? He begins to wonder if he’s having a heart attack or stroke, even though he just had his thirty-third birthday.
“Try hot water!” Max suggests, and usually he’d keep laughing but the weed he smoked with Ralph twenty minutes ago is inducing all sorts of paranoia.
“It’s moving, it’s moving!” Ralph says as the pain shifts into his left ear canal. “Ohh man, ohh man.” Something blue and slimy, about the size of a beanie baby, begins to ooze out of his ear.
“Is that your brain? Is that you’re fucking brain, man?” The watermelon’s churning in Max’s stomach as Ralph waves his hands in the air, tears streaming down his face as he leans over the table and tilts his head sideways. Max scoots his chair back, too stoned to stand. A mermaid drops down from Ralph’s ear. Or at least, a mermaid slug. A slugmaid?
With a slimy, larvae like body and a pencil thin, humanoid upper half, the slugmaid wriggles once and then dies. It’s face, complete with teeny-tiny pointy ears, scrunches up. “I feel better! I feel better, holy fuck I feel better!” Ralph begins uncontrollably shivering as he studies the slugmaid’s corpse.
“Wait a minute, that was…it was in your ear? Your head?” Max asks.
“The ice cream. I think the ice cream got it out,” Ralph says, and Max leans across the and grabs the bowl of half-melted ice cream. He begins shoving heaving globs of caramel chocolate into his gullet as fast as he can, and a moment later he’s on his knees, holding his head.
“Oooooh boy. Ohhhhh boy,” he moans and Ralph studies him, prodding a finger into his own, still slimy ear. A slugmaid droops from Max’s ear and he begins screaming hysterically until Ralph slaps him. The bowl of chocolate ice cream, placed on the edge of the table, falls off and shatters across the door.
“How long were they there for? How long were they eating our brains?” Max moans and at first, for some reason, Ralph wonders if the weed had anything to do with it.
“The lake!” Ralph says, as it begins to dawn on him. There was a storm a few weeks ago that swept in from the White Mountains and the lake had a strange, reddish hue to it. Maybe the merslugs, or whatever they really are, were disturbed.
“Oh god…” Ralph says, when he realizes that his wife, daughters, his daughters’ friends and Max’s family, from his own children to his parents, had gone in the lake water with them.
“No,” Max says, coming to the same conclusion. “How could this happen? How…?” Ralph places a hand on Max’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry. We know how to stop these…things. It’ll be easy, actually,” he heads over to his fridge and opens the freezer. “We’re just going to need a shit-ton of ice cream.”
And finally, although we know your monster has already loosened its belt, we offer up "Ghost Hunting" by our own Rinoa Cameron.
By Rinoa Cameron
Behind him the thump of the music pounded the night, whooshes and shrieks and hollers and screams added percussion. Little Tommy knelt in the long wet grass squirting superglue onto the stump of his severed neck.
This year—infernal Halloween yet again!—his stupid head, still with a few smudges of skeleton makeup, was staying well and truly on his shoulders. He scooped it from the ground and pushed his head into the squidgy glue.
This year will be different, he promised himself. No angels. No demons. No tricks or treats. Halloween could bugger off.
Eight years on Earth. Not long. Too young to be snuffed out dressed as a glow in the dark skeleton by an axe-wielding madman and his angel.
Screw them both, Little Tommy thought, deciding to avoid them this year.
How he hated his deathday, the one day a year he materialised on Earth and struggled to keep his stupid severed head on straight. The glue would help he promised himself, looking at his grubby hands, wondering how old he might be now? He certainly didn’t sport the fingers or height of a child anymore.
Head in place he adjusted his skeleton rags wondering if ghosts ever acquired new clothes or if for thousands of years they had to wear the same ridiculous outfit they carked it in? He grabbed the axe—the same axe that sliced his head off, the axe he stole from the demon, the axe he routinely slaughtered angels with …
Not this year, he reminded himself.
He turned to face the funfair. He awed at the zipping lights, music and the wonderful smells of sugar and mucky burgers. He watched the big wheel spin, saw the waltzer whiz, and listened the yells of “Here we go, higher and faster!”
Into the crowds he went, dragging his axe, wanting to marvel at everything, but having to be careful to ensure his head didn’t come off. The bumper cars looked like fun, but probably not so much fun if his head came flying loose and ended up scooting around the arena run over by the dodge-ems.
He peered over at the hook the duck, remembering his mother used to let him play that until he won a good prize, but he suspected his bear may be nothing but mulched fluff in a dumpsite now.
A ghostly shriek ripped the air and Tommy spun around, keeping one hand on his head for measure, and spied the ghost train. It was one of those small ones with the four seater carts and a little dip in the track on the second floor. The attraction was painted green with ghosts and ghouls and skeletons. Yellow lights flashed around it and more howls and wails cried from it.
Little Tommy threw his axe up onto his shoulder and joined the small queue. There were four kids in front of him. They turned to glare at him, and on seeing his skeleton rags that only covered about half his body and dark smudged makeup that barely formed a skeleton grin they laughed at him.
One of the boys prodded his shoulder. “What a rubbish costume!”
“Couldn’t you get something that fits?”
“How many years have you been wearing that crappy thing?”
“Too many years,” Tommy said, feeling his eyes narrow and hearing the darkness in his voice.
The grins of play and mischief slipped away from the youth’s faces. One seemed afraid. One gulped.
They turned away, but it was a second too late. The burn in Tommy’s severed neck told him so. The axe craved its Halloween feeding and buzzed in his palms.
A weeeee sound screeched as the next cart rolled up. The four kids glanced warily over their shoulders before handing coins to the lady in the booth and scrambling into the cart.
Tommy followed them. The cart rolled off with another mechanical scream and Tommy stepped onto the track. The lady in the booth yelled things at him. “Stop!” “No!” “Don’t!”
Tommy pushed his way through the black plastic sheets walking into the dark, howling, shrieking, gurgling world of the ghost train. Stupid glowing sculptures hung from the wall. Threads of cotton and fluff posed as spiderwebs. Tinny cackles crackled all around.
Up ahead Tommy heard the whoops and hollers of the kids. He felt the pent up bitterness sour his throat, swallowed and felt spit ooze through the severed part of his neck.
He started to run. Only a few steps brought him to the back of their cart, which moved painfully slowly through the make believe horror.
Tommy ducked down low and scooted past the cart to overtake it. He scurried a short distance along the tunnel and settled himself against the black wall. He felt his non-existent heart gather pace and imaginary sweat start to prickle his ghostly skin. He straightened himself, lifted his axe and watched the cart roll towards him through the gloom.
His skeleton fingers twitched in anticipation. The kids were screaming and laughing and teasing each other. The cart came closer ... closer.
Tommy pressed his back against the wall. A piece of white material on a string flew over the track making the kids yell.
Tommy’s skeleton grin started to spread. He tightened his fingers on his axe. The cart was inches from being level with him. The boy closest to him locked eyes with him. His mouth dropped open, shock splashed his face and Tommy readied to swing the hungry axe.
“Hey, Kid, what are you doing in here?”
A hand snatched little Tommy’s shoulder.
He spun around, unable to stop the momentum of the swinging axe, hearing a wail and a crack and feeling hot blood spray his face.
The woman from the booth toppled over. Her body slumped and Tommy hefted the axe again, chopping into her neck and sending her head thumping to the ground.
The cart rolled by. The kids seemed like frozen statues, their mouths agape. Tommy couldn’t hear them breathing. They all turned to stare at Tommy as he stood there dripping with blood, the dead toll booth lady rocking at his feet.
A second later the kids started whooping and cheering. “Oh, man!” they bellowed.
“That was awesome!”
“Wow, how crazy was that!”
“It looked so real!”
“Let’s go again!”
Little Tommy kicked the head away from his feet. When they came back around, he’d be waiting for them.
Thank you for joining us for our Halloween celebration, we hope you've enjoyed our selection and will return next week for another feeding.