The full moon above twisted the shadows into shapes of demons and specters. I clutched at Jessica’s hand as we walked through the woods looking for refuge. October is upon us, echoed through my mind, and the beasts and goblins reigned like tyrants this year. First they overran the big cities conquering humans in a blood rite unseen for countless centuries. What awakened the monsters this October? They advanced through population centers like hordes of flesh crazed maniacs. The metropolises stood devoid of human life soon enough, and the devilish masses started crowding into small towns in the night across the weeks before Halloween. Only in the tiniest of remote rural locations did humans still walk the earth.
We were in the process of fleeing from their dark carcasses that seemed to bleed pieces of reality. We needed to find a house and quick. The moon lit the trail a bit, and I whispered to Jessica, “Let’s run…”
So we ran. A light in the distance sparked in the blur of a slick grey fog. A simple house fleshed itself out in our vision the closer we ran. I saw the hell hound on the porch, and I knew the wicked creatures were ahead of us…
Jessica pulled on my hand, and the canine with jagged contours of solid obsidian wrapped tightly across a skeletal form looked up at us. Well, at me, right in the eyes. It made a deep guttural growl that sounded more like gravel grinding on gravel than a dog’s growl.
I said in the most hushed of tones, “The dog!”
“He’s on a chain! Come on!”
We ran up to the door and knocked. A humanoid shape answered with hewn rock arms and legs and a fat, plump belly. The entity of deep cut edges laughed a throaty crackle. The abomination’s clothes were a shifting, turning array of colors in paisley patterns. The thing’s adornments made me stare at the mind numbing shapes as they morphed between dreams.
It shouted in a broken, choppy voice, “Look, honey, trick or treat’rs! And they’re dressed as little humans!”
A second granite like figure stepped down the hallway with a kaleidoscope of colors weaving out tales in the fabric of her dress at a lightning pace.
Jessica and I held out our bags.
The female rock thing said, “Did they say ‘Trick or Treat’ yet?”
“No. Wait, maybe they did… Get the candy.”
The female promptly returned and dropped two full sized candy bars into each of our bags.
We pulled to a stop, and Jessica started eating a treat.
“We can’t keep doing this,” I said. “It’s been almost a week!”
“Do you have a better plan? No, these creatures think every day is Halloween, we have the perfect costumes, and we have to eat!”
“I don’t even like candy!”
“Damn you, Lucas, and your diabetes! I give you all the fruit we get, don’t I?”
“We got apples once in six days, and they were covered in caramel!”
“Come on, we can get three more houses in before dawn.”
* * *
We slept the day away under a willow tree by a rolling stream. Hunger ate away at my insides and my hand shook. I reached in my bag, pulled out a bag of disgusting gourmet chocolate treats with a crunchy candy shell, and ate just enough to quiet my stomach and calm my nerves.
Darkness fell on us as the sun set, and we were off. We hit house after house that night. With the rising sun, we collapsed in a ditch by the side of the road.
I slept for a while, but the grip of hunger woke me, and I ate gummi candies until the shakes began to subside.
A voice shouted, “You kids! Are you alright?”
I looked. A man in an army uniform, with a machine gun at his side, was crouching at the edge of our ditch with one knee bent. His hands were on his knee, and he was smiling wide.
The most primal of thoughts raced through my mind. This man might have food!
I nudged Jessica. She rubbed at her eyes and looked around.
“Are you kids alright?” The soldier man asked.
“We’re ok,” Jessica said.
I said, “We need food!”
The soldier laughed. “Come along with me, and we’ll get some food in you.”
Jessica and I ran at the soldier and hugged his legs tight.
The man patted our heads. “Come on. Hop in my jeep.”
We climbed into the back of his jeep, and he started driving.
“You kids are lucky to be alive,” he said. “We’ve been pushing the rock monsters back, but they’re heavy in this region.”
We nodded. We rode maybe a mile, maybe two. The encampment didn’t have a wall or even barbed wire around it, just a cluster of tents and vehicles in a field of hay. The man said, “My name is Myers. If you need anything, look for me.”
He showed us to a tent, and we stepped inside. It had a big rectangular table in the center with four chairs around it. Myers said, “I think we have roast beef or turkey sandwiches today. What do you guys want?”
“Roast beef!” I said.
“Turkey!” Jessica exclaimed.
Myers took off in a run. Jessica and I smiled and in perfect unison started rubbing our hands together like the gleeful man plotting his escape from a tyrannical situation.
Myers returned with clear plastic packages. At first, I didn’t notice anything strange then I more closely examined the package he set in front of me. It looked like food, but there was something strange about it. It had rough contours and looked like it had been made of rock pieces mortared together. I couldn’t wait. I took a bite. Imagine biting into a gravel with mortal and sand sandwich. Rocks. Sand. Mortar. Jessica and I spit our bites out back into the plastic containers. Myers asked, “What’s wrong?”
I noticed it finally. Myers was all straight lines and painted solids, not like a real person. Jessica stood up, and I followed her lead. She said, “Umm, we left something back by the side of the road. We’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Oh, no, you can’t leave,” Myers said.
Jessica yelled, “Hiya!” jumping into the air and throwing her foot at Myers head. He sort of crumpled into a ball of lines and solid colors.
Jessica and I ran to the flap in the tent and took a look around. The coast was clear, and we walked calmly away from their camp.
“You kicked Myers in the head!” I exclaimed.
She said, “Yeah.”
She stopped walking and turned to stare at me. She reached out with her finger and poked me in the chest. She said, “I’ve been telling you for years that I study Kung-Fu.”
“Yeah, but I…”
“You never listen to me.”
“I didn’t think they’d teach you how to kick somebody in the head,” I said.
“What do you think you learn at Kung-Fu?” She asked.
“I never thought about it. I thought it was maybe like dance class.”
“Come on, we’ve got to find our candy bags. Let’s run.” She pulled at my hand.
“No! We’ve got to find real food!”
“We have to find real food, or I’m gonna die, Jessica.”
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
She looked at me. She spoke softly, in her little I’m perfect we’ll do as I bid way, “First, we’ve got to get our bags. We have to eat something. Then, I have a plan.”
We walked and walked looking for our bags. Finally, just after dusk, we spotted them.
We ate a little bit then we started looking for a house. We knocked on the door.
The rock monsters gave us candy, as expected. But we didn’t run.
Jessica used her, please I’m cute voice, “My friend missed dinner. Is there any way you could spare a roast beef sandwich for him?”
The male rock monster looked to his female companion. Both creatures began to rub their chins.
I whimpered, “Please?”
The male smiled a wide toothy grin of razor teeth. The female said, “We don’t have any roast beef.”
“But we grilled bratwurst an hour ago. We have some left,” the male said.
Jessica looked at me. I drooled and said, “Bratwurst would be great.”
The female asked, “Mustard? Ketchup? Pickle relish? Fresh onions?”
I smiled. “Mustard and onions!”
The female wandered into the kitchen.
The male said, in a choppy, haggard voice, “My name is Johnathon. My wife is Bethany.”
The woman returned carrying a flat, crystal, square plate hosting not one, but two bratwurst in buns. I grabbed the plate and sat on the floor with the plate resting on my knees. Jessica kneeled down and tried to grab one of brats. I twisted out of her reach and said, “Get your own.”
Jessica looked up at the rock monster pair. Bethany cackled, with a high pitched voice, “There’s another one in the kitchen, deary. What do you want on it?”
Jessica whispered, “Mustard and relish, please.”
Bethany returned carrying two of the crystal plates. The first carried a brat, which she held out to Jessica. She took the plate and sat down on the floor. Bethany held the second plate out to us, and it had two forks and four heaping bowls on it: coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, and macaroni salad. Bethany said, “Leftover from dinner,” and set the plate on the floor between me and Jessica.
The two rock monsters left us alone in the hallway, and we stuffed ourselves like pigs.
At the end of the food, I said, “I feel much better.”
Jessica lay back on the floor, and stretched her legs out. The food was starting to work on me, and I felt a bit groggy.
“I’m tired,” Jessica said. “We’ve been running and walking nonstop for ages.”
“Me, too,” I said.
I lay down on my back and stared up at the ceiling.
“I’m gonna close my eyes for a few minutes,” Jessica said. “Wake me up in a little while.”
My eyes closed soon enough. I woke to the rays of the sun and looked around. I was in a bed, a bunk bed, and I could tell from the pace of her snoring that Jessica was in the bed above me.
I nudged her mattress.
“Wake up, Jessica,” I said.
She poked her head over the side of the bed and looked at me.
“You didn’t wake me,” she complained.
“Yeah, yeah. What are we gonna do?”
She blinked her eyes a few times. “You know what? I bet they’re cooking food again.”
“This is our chance to escape! We’ve got to get out of here!”
“We’re getting breakfast first!”
We heard a knock on the door. Johnathon opened the door and said, “I hope the beds were alright… Bethany has breakfast on.”
We followed Johnathon downstairs. Bethany hummed a wicked tune while she stirred up a small feast of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast with jelly.
Jessica and I ate our fill. Bethany moved to clear the dishes, and Jessica said, “Bethany, let us get the dishes for you.”
Bethany smiled. “So polite.”
“It’ll be our pleasure,” I said.
Jessica and I started clearing the tables. Jessica washed, and I dried.
“Are you kids going to take off your costumes?” Bethany asked.
Jessica grabbed my hand with a fiercer grip than I would have imagined possible. In fact, she may have broken a bone or two in my hand. She shouted, “RUN!”
I ran. We both ran.