The end of Coffin Hop 2012 has arrived. I will be putting names in a hat in the next day or two, and my children will choose two of them to win a copy of my collection, Southern Bones. Also, one individual that commented on the Day 6 Coffin Hop post will win a copy of Necrotic Tissue’s Best of Anthology, courtesy of me—oh, and I’m going to sign the book as well since one of my stories appears within its pages.
I hope you enjoyed The Coffin Hop this year—it was a great experience for me. I found some good writers who I will continue to follow.
I leave you all with a Halloween story titled, The Orange Wrapped Ones. It’s something I wrote several years ago, and one of the few Halloween pieces I have in my arsenal.
Thank you for visiting Type AJ Negative, and please do come back in the future. For now, I bid you farewell.
Until we meet again, my friends…
The Orange Wrapped Ones
“I wonder what type of candy we got this year.” Percy held his pillowcase trick-or-treat bag close to his face, peering in at the various goodies, but not seeing much more than shapes that looked like wrapped rocks and pebbles.
“Don’t know, Percy, but I hope I didn’t get none of those horrible chewy things that come in those orange wrappers. You know which ones I mean, right?” Carson didn’t so much as look up from his bag, which, to Percy looked to be twice as full as his own.
“You mean the ones that taste like peanut butter or the ones that taste like caramel?” Percy asked, scrunching his face in thought.
Percy set the old tattered pillowcase with the crude drawing of a skull and cross bones in black ink on the top step of the porch. He looked at Carson, and shook his head. “Yeah, you know, the ones with the caramel in the centers.”
“Those are Rolo’s,” Carson said and reached into his bag, pulling out a Snickers bar. “I like them, but I don’t care much for the orange wrapped ones. They stick to your teeth and I hate cleaning my teeth out. I heard that Mary Santeleone lost a fang one year chewing on one of those things. Yah want this?”
“Sure,” Percy said and stretched out one eerily white hand. He took the candy bar, then frowned. “Hey, one ‘em kids bite you or something?” He nodded at the perfect set of indentions on the backside of Carson’s hand—five little teeth marks in a half circle. There was a trace of blood and an ugly blue/black bruise had already formed.
Carson barely glanced at the wound, shrugging it off as if it didn’t matter. “Yeah, this kid didn’t wanna give up his bag, so he tried to take a chunk out of me. I kicked the crap out of ‘em. You should’ve seen the boy’s teeth come outta his mouth.”
Percy’s eyes grew huge in their sockets. “You know the rules—we ain’t supposed to hurt the rug rats—just scare ‘em and take their candy.”
“He wouldn’t give it up,” Carson argued, his brows were creased just above his nose.
“You better hope he doesn’t tell anyone.” An uneasy quiver formed in his stomach. Carson was still young—not like Percy, who took to haunting on Halloween years before.
“Did you warn him not to?”
“Something like that.”
“Something like that? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I left him out by the old creek down in Bryar Woods.” Carson had a chocolate bar opened and took a bite from it.
“You killed him?”
Carson shrugged, took another bit of his candy. “I didn’t want him tellin’ anybody I took his candy.”
Percy put his forehead in his hands and shook his head. “You idiot. Ma’s gonna kill you when she finds out.”
“She ain’t gonna find out.”
“Yeah she will. She always finds out.”
Carson glared at Percy, his cold gray eyes cutting through the darkness. “Not if you don’t say nothin’.”
Percy stood, grabbed his bag as he did so. The skull and cross bones shimmered, the black sockets seeming to come alive for a moment before settling back to hollow voids.
“I ain’t gotta say nothin’. She’ll know. She always knows. Just ask Jerry. He’ll tell yah.”
“Jerry?” Carson laughed, tossed the candy wrapper on the ground. “Jerry can’t even talk.”
“Yeah, he can—you just gotta listen to him.” Percy was halfway up the steps. That jittery feeling had been replaced by the heavy weight of dread. He no longer cared about the candy and the Halloween fun they normally had after midnight. No, the only thing Percy wanted was to be as far away from Carson when Ma found out what he had done.
“Really—Jerry can still talk. Even after what Ma did to him?”
“Well, yeah. All of Ma’s children can still speak. Even the ones like Jerry, who ain’t nothin’ more than a sack cloth with a face on it.”
“Hey, do you know what this is?” Carson said. He raised both of his arms, and then folded them just below his chin, his hairy hands touching their opposite shoulders.
“Jerry before he became a pillowcase.” Carson threw his head back, his mouth open and a donkey’s bray of laughter coming from it.
The skull on Percy’s treat bag shimmered again and its eyes flared, red replacing the black holes. One of the crudely drawn bones changed, the one dimension of it becoming two, then three-dimensional. It reached out, tearing free from the well-worn pillowcase. A bony hand extended from its stump, and snagged the front of Carson’s ridiculous vampire outfit—a black tuxedo, red cummerbund, slicked back hair and red bowtie. Surely, Dracula didn’t really dress like that. The hand pulled Carson toward the sack, its jaws opening and closing, snapping angrily. The skull pulled free from the bag, held on by mere threads that seemed to stretch beyond their capacity.
“Let go, Jerry,” Carson yelled and dropped his candy. He grabbed one of the tall flaking white and red painted pillars of the porch and held on tightly. His fingers grew white beneath the sparse hairs on top of them, his nails scraped across it as Jerry continued to pull, leaving deep grooves in the wood. “Get him off of me. Get him off of me.”
Jerry growled and pulled at the arm of Carson’s costume, his skeletal fingers slicing through the coat of the tuxedo. Carson pulled, his hands slipping, until the cloth tore free and he was suddenly pushed forward. He smacked his head on the column and lost his grip. Then he fell onto the porch and rolled into the dead azaleas that lined one side of the steps. Jerry howled as the pillowcase absorbed him, pulling him back to his abstract ink existence. The skull shimmered and then was still again.
“Has he lost his mind?” Carson snapped and scrambled to get himself free of the plants. He looked at the backside of his black pants and poked his finger into a hole. “Look what he went and did. He tore my new pants.”
“You shouldn’t pick at him, yah dimwit,” Percy said and rubbed Jerry’s skull, before starting for the door.
“Where are you going?” Carson asked and picked up his bag of candy.
“Inside—it’s almost midnight and Ma don’t like us out past the witching hour.”
Carson ran up the steps and grabbed Percy’s arm. “Why are you so afraid of Ma, anyway?”
“Because I’m not stupid.”
“Not stupid? Come on, Percy. If we joined together we could get rid of Ma, and then we would own All Hallows Eve. We could do whatever we wanted to. Those kids out there wouldn’t stand a chance against us then.”
“You haven’t been here that long, Carson. In case you’ve forgotten, you’re one of the new children, recreated only a couple years ago. Ma ain’t gonna be too happy with you as it is, and I don’t wanna be around when she finds out what you went and done. And missing curfew on top of it—you’re just asking for trouble.”
“Ma’s just a bag of bones that knows a bit of that black magic. That’s all she is. When yah figure that out, Percy, yah can stop being afraid of her and stand up to her.”
Percy laughed—a nervous sound that made that heavy weight of dread jiggle in his stomach. He glanced up at the half moon hanging in the sky. If he didn’t know better he would have sworn it was staring at them, one accusing eye focused on Carson while the other one hid from sight. Inside the old house Ma’s Grandfather clock chimed its mournful melody before tolling the midnight hour.
“We need to get inside,” Percy said, opened the door and stepped inside. As he stepped over the threshold, yellow and green sparks jitterbugged along the floor and the doorjamb and his hair stood on ends. He looked back at Carson, who stood on the edge of the porch, treat bag in hand and a defiant scowl upon his face.
The bell tolled on and Percy counted each one. Sweat beaded on his forehead despite the cool night air.
“Come on, Carson, get inside before the clock stops.”
“I ain’t doing nothing.” Carson snapped and crossed his arms. The heavy pillowcase, bumped against one hip, the candy wrappers rubbing together momentarily.
The clock tolled twelve, the echo ringing through the house. Percy held his breath, his mouth went dry. Several seconds passed and nothing happened. Carson glared upward and laughed loud into the night.
“Told yah nothing would happen.”
Percy shook his head again and looked past Carson. He could hear the faint sound of bones rattling together and dripping water, but could see nothing.
Carson turned and stared into the darkness.
“What’s that?” he asked and turned back to Percy.
“No it’s not,” Carson snapped. “Ma never leaves the house.”
Percy chuckled. If only Carson had known, “Ma ain’t never lived here.”
“What?” His head whipped back toward Percy. “What do you mean, she ain’t never lived here?’
“She looks after the dead, Carson. Not the living. She lives in the cemeteries. Or wherever someone has died.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Where’d yah leave that little boy?”
“I done told yah—by the creek.”
“Yah hear that dripping water?”
“What about it?”
“That’s how she knows yah killed that boy.”
“I still don’t get it—how would she know?”
“I told you—she looks after the dead, Carson.”
“Are you saying Ma’s dead?”
“We all are—that’s why we stay in the house—it’s our graveyard, yah dimwit.. I told yah that before. Yah just didn’t listen. We’re only allowed out once a year—on Halloween. Halloween’s over and you’re not inside. Ma ain’t gonna be too happy with you.”
Carson looked back toward the darkness, his eyes wide. He turned and darted for the door but when he reached the opening he crashed into… into… nothing. There was a tinge of electricity and those green and blue sparks, but there was no crossing over. His face and body and hands struck an invisible barrier and bounced back, sending him to the floor. His bag dropped from his hand and the candy spilled onto the wooden porch. Carson stood and went for the entrance again, but was met with the same resistance.
Percy’s eyes caught the orange colored wrapper of one of the candies skittering across the floor, but his attention was quickly torn away by Carson trying to ram himself through the doorway.
“What’s going on?” Carson asked, his voice full with panic. “Why can’t I get in?”
“It’s after midnight, yah dimwit. I tried to tell yah.”
“Carson?” The female voice was ragged and it echoed in the night air.
Carson and Percy both looked toward the trees. Ma came from out of the darkness, her bony body almost transparent through the grayed skin. Her hair hung down in wet strands; dirt and grass clotted in several places along her ribs; skin hung off of her nude figure and Percy could see one nearly gone breast, despite the small dead boy she held in her arms. The child’s face was purple and black and red; one arm dangled down at an odd angle, a bone poking through the skin at the crook of the elbow. A chunk of flesh was missing from the boy’s neck and his mouth was frozen in a bloodied grimace that held no teeth. And his eyes held that faraway stare that only the dead have.
“Carson, what have you done?” Ma asked, her milky white eyes staring at him.
“I didn’t do anything, Ma. Honest, I didn’t.”
“You killed this boy.”
“I didn’t do that—honest I didn’t.”
Ma stepped into the gleaming light of the half moon and set the boy on the grass. She stood straight, and at that moment, Percy wished the dead child were still in her arms, hiding her hideously thin, decaying form. Without thinking a hand went to his mouth, covering the O it had formed.
“Carson, we do not kill children,” Ma said and approached him, her steps awkward as if she was teetering on the edge of collapsing. Droplets of water soaked into the dirt, leaving muddy footprints behind.
“Why do you think I killed him? Percy might’ve done it.”
Percy’s head jerked in Carson’s direction, his mouth hung open in shock. “I didn’t do–”
Ma raised a hand to Percy and he fell silent. His eyes dropped to the porch, toward the candy in the orange wrapper.
“The dead speak, Carson, and the boy told me you were the one.”
“He lied,” Carson yelled and tried to back away.
“You lied,” Ma said and raised one blackened-nailed hand toward Carson.
Then she spoke words into the air quickly, a spell that tore through the night like lightning and rumbled the earth like Thunder.
Carson dropped to the ground, his hands holding tight to his stomach. His body twisted, his legs pulling back, as did his head. A scream tore from him. It was unlike anything Percy had ever heard—even Jerry didn’t sound as pained. Carson’s vampire costume ripped apart, and was replaced by old jeans and a bloodied t-shirt. His thick skin split and his hair fell out in clumps; his skin grayed.
Carson rolled onto his stomach and tried to stand, but could only manage a feeble lunge toward Ma.
And the spirits came, their gray forms dashing about, leaving streaks of white in their wake. They grabbed at Carson’s decaying form, and pulled the limbs from his torso and bit out chunks of his flesh. They pulled and tugged at his skin, hair and organs until all that remained were a pair of arm bones and his skull, both eyes lulling in their sockets. One of the Spirits lifted the skull to its face. It inhaled sharply, sucking Carson’s soul into itself. Then it tossed the skull back to the ground.
The spirits turned to the dead Ma had found, encircling him. The one that had picked up Carson’s soul hovered of the boy’s body, its mouth to the boy’s mouth. The blooms of red, black and blue that had been put there by Carson faded. The broken arm was mended, the torn flesh stitched back together. After they were finished, the Spirits disappeared into the night, their wails like the wind rustling through the trees.
The child stirred, blinked several times before opening his eyes. Percy thought he might be scared—Heaven knows he was when he woke up from death. The world looked different, the black of night not so dark or scary. There was no pain. There was plenty of fear, but not because of waking up. No, it was because the memories remained, the way he had been beaten and stabbed and stowed beneath a house with the bodies of several other little boys. Percy shivered as a cold finger traced itself along his spine. It had been so long ago, but still felt like just minutes had passed.
The boy stood, his body slightly deformed. The wounds Carson had inflicted on him were scars that would be there forever—or at least until the boy did something stupid the way Carson had. He was taller and his body was bigger; there was hair on his face and his clothes were rags that fell off as he stood. The boy looked to Ma and took several steps backward.
“Good morning, Child,” Ma said. “Your name is Robbie, and that is your older brother.” She pointed at Percy. “Run along inside, now, and Percy will tell you how we do things around here.”
The boy turned to Percy and started up the stairs without question.
Ma turned and went back the way she came, her feet dragging, leaving wet footprints behind. “Yah take good care of my baby, Percy,” she called out.
“Can I come in?” Robbie asked when he reached the door.
Percy nodded. “Sure, but can yah do something for me, first?”
“Yah see that piece of candy on the floor there? The one in the orange wrapper?”
“Can yah get it for me?”
Robbie bent down and picked up the candy. He stepped through the door—there were no sparks of any color this time—and put it in Percy’s hand. Percy looked at it for a moment. It said Mary Jane on the wrapper. He opened it, and stared at the light brown piece of sweet.
“Man, I hate these things,” he said and tossed it back outside.
“What is it?” Robbie asked.
“The nastiest piece of candy ever,” Percy said and reached into his bag. He pulled out a Milky Way bar and handed it to his new little brother. “This is good eatin’ here.”
As they walked away, the door closed slowly behind them.