Episode 009 - The Halloween Special
Christopher and his 8-year old sister, Marie, were having the worst Halloween ever. All the grown-ups could talk about was the Tylenol murders which had occured during the previous month. Most towns were discouraging trick-or-treating this year.
“We’ll be OK.” Marie said to their mom. “I won’t take any medicine from people. Just candy.”
“I don’t think anyone will be giving candy out this year, kiddo.” said mom. “No one wants any more kids dying.”
“We won’t die as long as no one puts poison in the candy.” cried Christopher. “It’s not like the people who give out candy are all trying to kill kids.”
“The first girl to die from the cyanide in her Tylenol was only a couple years older than you.” said mom. “It’s too risky. You aren’t going out this year.”
The kids sat in the living room with their costumes ready to go. Christopher had saved his lunch money to purchase a realistic grim reaper mask with articulated jaw, the kind that fit to the wearer’s face with spirit gum, which he had painted himself for extra realism. Marie wore a curly copper-haired wig she’d found in the closet along with an old red dress to be Little Orphan Annie. They were ready.
“Mom.” protested Christopher, “This is, like, my LAST Halloween. I’m in double digits now. I won’t get another chance.”
“I have to go to work, kids. You’re staying in with your sister. Watch a movie or something. There’s Jiffy Pop in the cabinet.”
“Can’t we trick or treat a little?” asked Marie. “We’re all dressed up here.”
Their mom sighed, her foot already out the door. “You can go to a few houses in the neighborhood only. Just people we know. NO STRANGERS.”
“Yay!” both kids exclaimed.
“And you can’t eat any candy until I’ve had a chance to examine it all.”
“Fine.” they said in unison.
The sun hung low in the sky when they stepped out of the row-home they’d been living in since their parents split up. It was only a few blocks from the blood-red house on Cooperton Avenue where they’d lived all of their lives up until June. The kids were still getting used to the change. Christopher liked having his own room at least, since their teenage brother, Jonathan, had decided to live in the basement. They didn’t see much of him those days.
The two children went up and down the block on both sides, knocking on every door. No one answered.
“Why isn’t anyone home?” Christopher asked.
“Maybe they’re all out trick or treating?” pondered Marie.
Christopher looked down the street in both directions, seeing no one out.
“If they are, it isn’t around here.” he said, “Maybe we should try another block down.”
“Mom said to stay in the neighborhood,”
“Yeah but...what’s the definition of a neighborhood? One block? Three blocks? Ten?”
“A neighborhood is five blocks or less!” she said authoritatively.
“Ok, let’s go five blocks this way.” said Christopher, “Then we can come back and go five blocks the other way.”
They walked street after street. Past the row-homes and into regular housing. Most houses no one answered and at one or two they just got sad shrugs from the inhabitants and excuses of, “I didn’t think we’d get trick or treaters this year, so I didn’t buy any candy.”
After five blocks of this Marie was tired.
“I want to go home.” she said, “This is stupid. We didn’t get any candy. I hate Halloween.”
“Don’t say that!” said Christopher. “Halloween is the BEST. People just don’t get it this year. They’re all scared.”
“But we’re the only people out here! We look like idiots.”
“Yeah.” said Christopher. “Where are all of the other kids?”
“They’re inside watching TV probably.”
“I don’t know, We tried Dave’s house and Jimmy’s...and a bunch of other kids from school. No one was answering there. Most of them had the lights out.”
“I’m just wondering.” Christopher said, “If all of the other kids aren’t home, then where are they?”
“Maybe the Halloween witch ate them.”
“That’s not a thing.”
“You don’t know everything.” she countered, “There’s a witch house on Cooperton avenue. Just a few blocks from our old house.”
“A witch house?”
“Yeah. Michelle Cohen and her brother told me. She tried to eat their toes.”
“Michelle and Kevin went to a witch house?” he asked. “They went to a WITCH house? And a lady there, with green skin and a pointy hat was all like, ‘gimme your toes!’? REALLY?”
“I don’t care if you believe in witches or not. I’m telling you that’s what Michelle told me.”
“Why their toes? Why not the rest of them?”
“I don’t know. Maybe that was what she needed for the potion.”
“A toe potion.?”
“You know how potions are. They always have bat tongues and spider eyes and stuff in them. Maybe she needed kid toes for hers.”
“There’s no such thing as witches,” said Christopher. “Just like there’s no such thing as Shower Curtain People.”
“THE SHOWER CURTAIN PEOPLE ARE REAL! I saw them. They live in the shower curtain.”
“That is the dumbest thing that anyone has ever been scared of ever.”
“It’s not dumb. It’s a real thing.”
“Ok.” said Christopher. Mom had warned him about making fun of his sister for the things she claimed to see, but Shower Curtain People were just too silly. He couldn’t help himself.
“Look!” shouted Marie.
She pointed at kid walking about a block away.
“It’s another kid! Let’s follow him!” she said. “Maybe he’s going to where the trick or treats are.”
The other kid walked toward the elementary school, directly across the street from Christopher and Marie’s old house.
“Is there something going on at the school tonight?” Marie asked.
“The lights are all off,” said Christopher.
They got close enough to the other kid to see he was wearing a Dracula cape, with his black hair slicked back. He headed toward the playground at the rear of the school.
“Hey kid!” Marie yelled. “Where are you going?”
The kid stopped and turned.
Seeing his face in the glow of the streetlights Christopher recognized Steve, his white hair turned black with color hairspray, his eyes still inexplicably brown as they’d been ever since the day he and Christopher went sledding last December.
“Ice cream.” said Steve.
“What?” said Christopher. “Ice cream? It’s Halloween. Nobody eat’s ice cream on Halloween.”
From the woods behind the school came a familiar song.
It was the Mister Sillee jingle.
“Ice cream!” Marie screamed as she ran toward the source of the sound.
“Wait!” cried Christopher while chasing her but she made it halfway to the crest of the hill behind the schoolyard before he caught up.
The music grew louder when they reached the short downward slope.
Across the field that spread out from the bottom of the hill stood a dense wood which Christopher had once vowed to never enter again. Right at the edge of the wood was a Mister Sillee ice cream truck playing its neverending jingle on speakers mounted to the roof.
Dozens of children surrounded the truck.
Marie practically rolled down the hill and Christopher stumbled in pursuit.
When they reached the sea of children Marie and Christopher saw that most of them were eating enormous ice cream cones, easily twice the size of what Mister Sillee usually served. A man dressed as the red-haired clown mascot of Mister Sillee’s ice cream peered out of the truck’s side window, handing cones to every kid that approached.
“Can I have a black cat?” said Marie when her turn arrived, pointing to the drawing on the side of the truck of the signature cone with two chocolate twirls that resemble cat ears and a cherry for a nose.
The clown honked his nose at her and pointed to another picture of a cone that contained an orange soft serve with chocolate sprinkles in the shape of a jack-o-lantern. The title above the image said, “Halloween Special”.
“Umm...” she said, “I want a black cat. Black cats are for Halloween too!.”
The clown honked his nose again and handed her a “Halloween Special” identical to the one in the illustration. She sighed and took it.
Christopher also was offered a special Halloween ice cream cone. He took it and the two kids pushed their way through the crowd to find a spot to eat their ice cream in peace.
Marie took one taste and spit out her ice cream. “Ughh. I hate creamsicle flavor.”
Creamsicles were one of Christopher’s favorites so he opened his jaw to take a big mouthful when someone swatted it out of his hand.
“Hey!” he shouted as his treat fell to the ground.
Steve stood in front of him and said, “No. The ice cream is bad.”
The back door of the truck swung open and eerie blue light spilled out into the dark field. The Mister Sillee clown waved silently at the kids, beckoning them to enter.
One by one the children climbed into the back of the truck. Well over two dozen kids of all sizes entered, more than could possibly fit. Yet still more filed in.
Marie started toward the truck, but Steve grabbed the back of her collar.
“Ice cream!” she cried, fighting him.
“No.” said Steve. “There’s nothing good in there.”
“What’s happening?” asked Christopher.
“The Balatron. They’re trying to get to Amalthea.” replied Steve.
“What? Make sense.”
“It doesn’t matter.” said the brown-eyed boy. “We need to get out of here.”
The last of the kids boarded the truck. Nearly a hundred in all. Everyone except the three of them.
“What do we do about all of the kids?” asked Christopher.
“Nothing. We can’t help them.” said Steve as he dragged the struggling Marie away from the truck.
Christopher assisted him. The door of the truck slammed shut and the field became dark except for the headlights. The ice cream song continued to play.
When they reached the hill Marie stopped fighting them as if a spell had been lifted.
The engine of the truck started up.
“Let’s go.” said Steve.
They clumsily climbed up the hill in the dark, but the tangle of roots and vines made it difficult.
The truck slowly drove toward them.
“It’s gonna kill us!” wept Marie.
“He can’t drive that truck up this hill.” said Christopher. “We can barely even walk up it.”
They scrambled upward using their hands as much as their feet.
The truck reached the bottom of the hill.
Marie picked up a rock and threw it at the ice cream truck. It bounced off the darkened windshield.
“Don’t do that!” said Christopher. “You’ll make him mad!”
“He’s chasing us!”
“He can’t get us up here, that truck can-” the engine roared and the truck ascended the slope of the hill easily.
The three kids ran.
The truck made it to the crest as the kids reached the blacktop behind Amon Heights Elementary School.
They bolted across the schoolyard, around the building, and out onto Cooperton avenue.
When they hit the street Marie started crying as they looked once more at the blood-red house.
“I wish we could just go home.” she said.
“That’s not our home anymore.” said Christopher.
“Then let’s go to our house.” replied Marie with tears in her eyes.
The truck appeared around the building as it inched toward them, slowly approaching as if it had all the time in the world.
“This way!” shouted Steve as he led the other two in the opposite direction of the row homes.
They ran for two blocks, the truck moving behind them at a snail’s pace.
“Where are we going?” asked Christopher.
“Just keep running!” replied the other boy. They ran through a few backyards and between some houses.
The truck slowly turned the corner, the jingle droning on.
When it reached the end of the block it turned again, sticking to its leisurely pace.
Steve ducked down a driveway followed by Christopher and Marie, hopping over a small stone-wall that stood around a tree-shrouded house.
“We can’t go there!” Marie said. “That’s the witch house!”
“This is MY house,” said Steve.
“You’re the witch?”
“No. I live here with my aunt Lucy.”
“Oh. She’s the witch.”
“We’re not witches.”
Steve led the way into the tiny home.
Marie was cautious but she followed the boys as they entered.
Inside the house was well lit, with the scent of potpourri. The door opened into a living space with a sofa, a comfy chair and a tv. There were no signs of cauldrons, broomsticks or bats. She was a little disappointed.
“What kind of witch house is this?”
“It’s not a witch house,”
“Steven?” called a woman’s voice from the kitchen. “Is that you?”
“Yes, aunt Luce!” he responded. “I have some friends here.”
“Alright dear.” she said. “Do they want some candy?”
“YES!” said Christopher. “Thank you!”
A short-haired woman with dark eyes entered holding a tray of cookies and a giant cauldron-shaped bowl filled with Halloween candy.
“We can’t take cookies from an old hag.” Marie tried to whisper, but her voice tended to carry.
“I’m thirty-two.” Lucy said, smiling. “How was trick-or-treating?”
“Not great-” began Christopher before Marie interrupted.
“We got free ice cream from a clown in the woods but he’s the devil or something and he tried to eat us. He chased us all the way here and he kidnapped every kid in town!”
“Hey, slow down.” said Lucy, “A clown tried to eat you?”
“No.” said Steve, “It’s true. It’s the Bala-” There was a knock at the door.
“Do you have more friends coming?”
All three kids shook their heads no.
Lucy opened the door. A police officer stood in the doorway.
“Sorry to bother you ma’am, there’s been some disturbances in the neighborhood. You know, kids getting into mischief. Do you have any children here?”
Lucy leaned toward the cop to obscure his vision into her home.
“No officer,” she said, “I do not have any children.”
“Are you quite certain, Miss? I could swear I saw some heading into this here house.”
“Do you have a warrant, officer?”
“Excuse me, ma’am, this is just a friendly visit. No need to-
“Leave my property now, officer.”
“Bring me the children.”
“Bring me the children now!” the policeman bellowed as his mouth contorted into a forced smile, his face becoming paper white.
“Molly!” shouted Lucy.
From nowhere a silhouetted figure pounced on the threatening man, thrashing and twisting around him.
“Arrgh.” cried the policeman, his nose suddenly round and red as he stumbled away from the door.
“We will return for what is ours!” he snarled at her as he ran to a squad car on the street. As it drove off, the ice cream truck jingle could be faintly heard. The shadowy form glided along the ground and came to rest at Lucy’s feet, becoming one with her own shadow.
Marie was in tears. “What was that?”
“That was a friend, children.” said Lucy, gesturing at her shadow as she closed and locked the door, “Don’t worry. You’re safe here.”
“See, Aunt Lucy.” said Steve, “The Balatron are up to something. They took the children. All of them. And I think I know why.” He didn’t talk like a kid anymore. Steve’s voice was different. Christopher couldn’t explain it, but he sounded like a grown-up in a kid’s skin.
“Who are you?” Christopher asked brown-eyed Steve, “Who are you REALLY?”
“I don’t actually know who I am.”
“But you’re not Steve. Not the kid I go to school with.”
“I am now, but that’s not what I always was.”
“Those kids will get murdered!” wailed Marie. “We need to help them.”
“What are we supposed to do about it?” Christopher asked her. “We’re just kids.”
“Those kids will show up in school tomorrow.” said Lucy. “They will seem to be perfectly unharmed.”
“How do you know?” asked Christopher.
“Because this has happened before.”
Intro and outro theme
Music Provided By Mediacharger
Artist: Darren Curtis
Track: Demented Nightmare