Literary as hell.

Tag: halloween (Page 1 of 5)

“Avocado,” a flash fiction piece by John Brantingham

You try to steer Cyndi in her Hulk costume away from the house three doors down where the pediatrician lives. He opens the door and pulls an avocado and a toothbrush out of a basket and tosses them into her pillowcase. He says, “Happy Halloween.”

Cyndi thanks him, but you can’t help yourself. You say, “You know it takes a special kind of asshole to give a child a lecture instead of a piece of candy.” You point into his basket overflowing with the Earth’s bounty. “Is that a beet?”

He cocks his head. “What? Did you have a couple before you took your kid out trick or treating?”

Of course, you did, but only because you forgot it was Halloween, and anyway, you thought you’d mouthwashed the smell away. Apparently not. “Yes, madam,” you say, “but tomorrow, I’ll wake up sober, and you’ll still be a shithead.” The quotation is right on the top of your head because you’ve been teaching Churchill in your graduate seminar for the last two weeks. You know you got it wrong and the “madam” probably confused the guy a little, but it feels like a good retort, so you spin on the back heel and catch up with Cyndi who’s sitting on the front lawn.

By now, the guy’s slammed his door, so you say to her, “If you want, we can throw the produce through that fucker’s front window.”

“No, Dad, no. I’m the peaceful Hulk.” This is probably why she drew a Mercedes Benz symbol on the chest of her costume. She brings the avocado up to her nose and inhales and smiles and then lifts it up to you. 

You take it and breathe it in, and it fills you up. “You make a good point, Gumdrop, and besides there’s more loot to be taken on this street.”

She takes it back and smells it once more. “It’s so good,” she says. “It’s just so fucking good.”

Continue reading

2021 Halloween contest finalist: “A Trick and a Treat” by Carl Herstedt

The small graveyard, tucked in, almost hidden, past the hills and meadows is nearly empty. I stop my car in the square of pebbles in front, take the plastic bag lying in the passenger seat and step out into the howling wind. 

The gate shuts on its own behind me with a thick thud. I make my way across the tombs that are spaced out seemingly haphazardly, and in a variety of sizes. For a moment, there are dim lights and laughter in the distance, then it’s gone just as quickly. Trick-or-treaters, perhaps, hunting for bounty in the residential are nearby.

Tilde brushes against my calf, sniffing into the wind at nothing. I can just barely see her tail wagging. I forgot to bring a lantern, so I use the screen of my phone to light my path forwards. The grass in here could use a trim. Long straws, still wet from the rain earlier today, sticks in chunks on my boots, but Tilde doesn’t mind it. Finally, I reach the tombstone I was searching, and pull the bouquet out of my plastic bag and place it in front of the stone.

“There,” I tell Tilde, “now we can play.”

The word ‘play’ seems to instantly switch on something in her mind, and she jumps around my feet as I dig in my jacket-pocket after a stick I picked up earlier before getting in the car. Playing with Tilde I lose all track of time – I exhaust myself physically, but mentally I’m in a pleasant, soothing lull of sorts. Tilde’s a bundle of energy, same as always. A man walks by, just a shadow against the fence and the trees, I don’t know if he even notices Tilde but he says nothing, just nods to me before strolling further into the graveyard.

I lay my plastic bag flat in the grass and sit down, and Tilde comes to rest by my lap. I scratch behind her ears and move my hand along her nape and back, and so we sit in silence until my wrist is tired and it’s time to part. 

“Sit,” I say and she winces, knowing it means our time is up, but looks a bit more eager when I put my hand in my pocket. She sits, and I put the bone-shaped little nugget in my hand on top of her tombstone. 

“Until next year,” I say and stand up, ready to rush back to my car, because I still can’t stand being left here alone. So when she turns around, I do, too. Much better to say good-bye like this, with a trick and a treat.

2020 Halloween Contest Winner: “Rot” by Sadie Kraus

The teeth were too big for Maggie. The wax gums slipped along her molars and stabbed her flesh until she couldn’t bear it and took them out. 

“Why’d you go and do that?” Brother Daniel asked. “No one’ll know what you’re s’posed to be.” 

“They hurt.” she said, dropping the little rubber fangs into her pillow case candy sack. Her mouth relaxed. She was glad to get the things out. Other than the pain, the foamy spit that stuck inside the rubber fangs moved in and out with each breath and made her feel like the rabid dog that had been on tv last night. But altogether, Dan was right. Without the fangs, her basilisk costume fell into a well of scaly obscurity. Even with the teeth in, she’d had to explain to both Missus Dodson and dim little Craig Elner from next door that she was absolutely not a dragon to go along with her brother’s knight getup. 

“I guess it doesn’t matter anyhow. We ought to head back soon.” Daniel fidgeted with his wrist watch. It had been a present for his birthday earlier that month and he had not stopped setting alarms and timing mundane activities – eating cereal, practicing times tables, using the bathroom. Maggie hated it, for it was a traitor and blared out the exact second their nightly hour of television was over. Mother sometimes forgot her rule about the tv and, on those occasions, Maggie could catch another episode of Dateline. 

Dan’s watch, on the other hand, never forgot the hour tv rule.  Continue reading

2020 Halloween Finalist: “The Law of Indifference” by Daniel Olivieri

Hardly anyone paid much attention to me until my execution. Or, that isn’t entirely true. I had an incredible amount of attention paid to me when I was a baby. But that attention wasn’t any fun at all. I don’t remember it, but I can be pretty sure. It can’t have been much fun to be the damning piece of evidence in my parent’s trial.

 

A little after I was born, people started wondering how I’d come to be. My parents couldn’t claim that they’d adopted me because they didn’t have any paperwork to prove it. They also couldn’t claim to have given birth to me—they were both men. And so how had they come into possession of such an adorable little baby girl? Had they summoned her out of thin air with a cauldron and some magic stones?

 

Yes. Yes they had. That’s exactly what they’d done.

 

For proof, the accusing lawyer showed the court my belly button, or rather my lack of one. I had no belly button, she argued, because I’d never needed an umbilical cord. Or so I’m told. I didn’t have much patience for legal proceedings when I was eight months old. From what I understand I spent most of the trial trying to fit my foot into my mouth. In any case, the jury found the belly button argument convincing enough that my parents were convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death.

 

It’s not easy growing up knowing that you were the piece of evidence that got your parents executed. Especially when your foster parents remind you of this just about every morning. “Strayala,” they would say, “You should scrub the floor harder. You have much to atone for. Don’t you know that you were the reason your parents were executed?” Even before I was old enough to know what “executed” meant, I didn’t like to hear that. When I finally did find out what the word meant, I liked it even less.

 

That said, I hear that my parents held themselves a marvelous execution. They were known for throwing the most fun parties. Their execution was no exception. They began planning it on the very day they were convicted. They hired an up-and-coming executionist, had a jazz band play, a few minor celebrities even attended. It was a huge success. The ticket sales from the execution were enough to cover my college tuition.

 

When it came time to plan my own execution, I tried to make them proud. Nasha and Oliver helped me plan it. They’re less than half my age, Nasha and Oliver, but we still spend all our weekends together. Sometimes the weekdays too. We do witch things together: binding up spells and practicing cantrips and cackling very loud. Though, the cackling has very little to do with us being witches and very much to do with Oliver being hilarious. He can play the trumpet and the accordion at the same time. He bugs his eyes out when he does it and he gets this crazy expression—but I guess you’d have to see it to understand.

Continue reading

Halloween Contest Winner: Various Ways of Looking at Halloween by Nancy Slavin

“Stay with us, stay with us,” the swarm of ghouls yelled at me just after dawn on Halloween morning. 

Witches had snatched my three-hour-old baby, taking her so I could not see her. Her cries from being torn away from my breast tore through me, but the ghouls told my husband, who now held our newborn child, to get the hell out of the room. 

The doctor who’d cut me open just a few hours before to birth our baby, now pressed with the heels of both hands on my newly stapled belly, which was bleeding out. A gush of blood, blood pressure dropping to thirty over forty. When the numbers match up, the body is dead. 

The rest of the goblins, I remember, discussed a machine, some machine they wanted to arrive to help me survive. The nurse was a minute away, they said. The drug she would give me would cause bloating, and they had to give me someone else’s blood. “I’m just tired,” I complained. I did not know I was dying. When she arrived, she wore a Nurse Ratchet costume, with a tight white tunic, bright white leggings and a small blue-and-white striped paper hat bobby-pinned in her coiffed blond hair.

Continue reading

Halloween Finalist: “Hallowe’en, 1933” by Tylor James

Gordo, Alabama, USA. 

October 31st, 1933.

Charlie Wannemaker and Eddie Brackett spent the afternoon making the exemplary scarecrow. First they’d dragged the ragged old scarecrow off its stake down on ol’ Henderson’s corn field. They folded its straw-filled limbs up nice and tight and toted him in a red wagon all the way to Charlie’s barn. Henderson’s scarecrow was okay, but it wouldn’t do for the great stunt they had in mind for the night. Not without a touch of restoration.

“If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right,” Charlie instructed. Continue reading

2018 Halloween Contest Winner: “Careful With The Borscht,” by Victoria Masters

Crooked fingers of thick grey fog moan over the birch forest. The sky looks heavy. My nose is pressed up against the window, breath hot on the frosty pane.

“Come away from there,” Mama says to me in Russian, “you’ll freeze.”

“Mama,” I turn to her. She’s dark and bundled in the cold light. “Can me and Kolya go out and play?”
She draws in a sharp breath, and eyes the edge of the forest. “Why do you want to play? It will rain later, look. Better to stay inside. Talk to your family you haven’t seen.”

“Please?”

She looks down her long, thin nose at me. Hands on hips, heart beating. I’ve been trapped inside the dacha, summer cottage, for days as Karelia pours bucket after bucket of rain down on us. We don’t usually come in the autumn, but my grandmother wanted to spirit us away from the city before my mother and I go back to New Jersey. My heart is pounding against my chest, itching to breathe the open air.

“Maybe,” Mama acquiesces. “After you eat your lunch.” Continue reading

2018 Halloween Contest Finalist: “Lila in Hollywood,” by Timothy Day

Lila was almost home when she saw him. He lay beneath the flickering street lamp just around the curve from her apartment. His eyes were closed and there was a pool of dried blood on his shirt. Lila looked around. No one else in sight. She knelt and checked for a pulse. Nothing. His neck smelled like coffee. Lila checked his pockets. In his wallet she found an I.D. card from some talent agency. Travis, his name was Travis. Lila knew she should call the police, but he was so beautiful. And he looked light enough to carry, or at least drag. Lila lifted up his shirt. His ribs were visible around the wound. He was kind of dirty. She checked the road again, then looped her arms beneath his shoulders and began tugging him around the corner. His shoes made soft scrapes on the concrete. Lila took them off. My floors are soft, she whispered.

 

When they got to her building, Lila brought Travis through the back door. The hallway was–thank God–empty. She scrambled for her keys and unlocked her door and dragged Travis inside. His legs crossed the threshold just as her neighbor Kyle opened his door. Lila jumped over them and into the hallway. She tried to pull the door closed, but it caught on Travis’ feet. Kyle stepped out and smiled at her. She swung the door hard, knocking Travis’ feet aside, and pressed it shut. Kyle stopped in front of her and put his hands in his pockets.

“Hey Lila,” he said. “How’s it going?” He took one hand out and scratched the back of his neck.

“Hi Kyle,” Lila shouted. “I was just checking my mail.”

“For sure,” Kyle said. “No mail today huh?”

“I don’t know,” Lila said. “What I meant was, I’m about to check it.”

“Oh got ya,” Kyle nodded. “Totally.”

They stood in silence.

“I have to go,” Lila said, not moving.

“Oh for sure,” Kyle said. He stood for a moment, then started walking down the hallway. At the exit he looked back over his shoulder, smiled at the floor, and left. Lila hurried back into her apartment and locked the door.

Lila sat Travis on the couch. His head slumped to the side. She took hold of either end and gently centered it, leaning it just so against the cushion so that it remained upright.

She beamed. “Make yourself at home!”

~ Continue reading

2018 Halloween Contest Finalist: “The Upside Down Mermaid,” by Sarah Miller

Photos by Erin Popelka

It was subtle at first. When Carpolina was 14, she noticed some scales forming around the base of her neck. Her mother always told her that puberty was a bitch, and to expect strange bodily changes around this age. Sure, the scales were kind of itchy, but in the lighting of the bathroom, they glistened. In high school, where everyone experiments with spoken word poetry and dramatic fashion statements, no one suspected anything when Carpolina showed up wearing turtlenecks. Continue reading

“In a Pickle,” a short story by Katelyn Terry

It was October and my friend, Lance, had invited me to a costume party in the ritzy part of Boston that a friend of his friend was hosting. Of course I was excited, but politely declined when I saw the entry fee of one hundred fifty dollars. However, Lance was determined to go and begged me to join him.  He used every form of bribery there was beginning with stating there was a cash prize of 10,000 dollars for the most authentic and realistic costume and ending with his offer to pay for me to go. He should have started by waving my fee because the moment he did I was in.

Knowing that there were large cash prizes at stake I quickly began planning my costume.  I scoured Pinterest for “original costume ideas” which actually really defeats the purpose so I switched to “semi-original costume ideas” and eventually found a winner.  After scrolling through images of trolls, aliens, and girls dressed as nerds I finally found a costume that spoke to my true identity. I wanted to be a giant green pickle. I could already imagine being called to center stage, the lights glistening of my slightly sweating green form as I accepted a giant check made out to Pickle Girl. Continue reading

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