Thursday, October 25, 2012

Paragrahs Of Power "Halloween Special" Short Story contest!

 Welcome everyone to the Paragraphs Of Power "Halloween Special Edition" The following six entries are for your reading pleasure and consideration in the vote for the story you consider the best. To enable you time to read and consider the voting will remain open until midnight on October 30th. The winner will be announced on "Halloween" Morning October 31st. Good luck to all the entrants!

 #1. Bedlam
Fear, a primal reaction unfurled from the smallest seed, in the pit of a churning belly, a shiver etched with icy claws across skin stretched taut with dread.
Fear is subjective; I know this to be true. I have faced them all. The scuttling arachnid, the hissing serpent, even the heat of the pyre has left me unbowed. But, when I stand toe to toe with the wide open space, the plummeting depths; the void at the edge of my world, the panoramic vista draws me, seduces me; entices me to take that final step back into Bedlam.
I’m shaking now, deep inside. My organs rattle like poppy seeds in a desiccated pod. No warm flesh to cushion them, I am but a dry shell. Yet, I feel perspiration cold against the back of my neck, hot on my face and I force my eyes to remain open. This time I must see what lies before me. This time nothing will stop me.
I hear him coming softly through the darkness, his measured step as he circles ever closer. I feel his presence. The subtle movement of air around me as he moves; disturbs my fragile being. I need to retain focus, yet I have not the power to resist as his warm breath whispers against my ear. Taunting, teasing. He knows I will succumb, as I have done for what seems like an eternity.
This time is different. I must overcome, I must succeed. I inhale. The simple act of breathing causes my chest to burn. My heart beats a warning, my senses buzz. I clamp my mouth shut, hold my breath. He is all around me, he is poison and yet my lungs yearn for release. My body betrays me and my lips part with a soft sigh. The threat is real, I know it.  I cannot help myself, I step forward.
 My toes are bare, scuffed and bloody, yet I feel no pain, merely the cold steel beneath my feet. I have travelled far. I am nearly there, almost at my destination, the point of no return. Sadness exudes from my pores. Melancholy hums gently in my head. I curl my toes over the edge, feel the roughness of rusted rivets and steady myself against the night breeze.
He smiles. I feel it against my skin in the same way I hear his laughter in my head, harsh, and mocking. He is letting me know that my actions are his and I am powerless. I seek out the rage that lies hidden in the depths of my used and abused, excuse for a soul. It evades me.
I inch forward and now my toes are free of the degenerated metal. I feel cool air, an updraft of sweet intoxication. It beckons me and I am tempted. Behind, he urges me on, whispers his jibes, like lyrics to a favourite song, over and over until the chorus threatens to overpower me, to push me over, to pull me in.
I know what I must do. In my head, in my waking dreams I have argued and reasoned with my doubting, lesser self. In my dreams I am strong but now as I stand at the brink, at the beginning of the end, I am shaking and he crowds my thoughts with his own.
He’s closer now, almost upon me. I feel his coldness where others might imagine warmth. I risk a final breath through pursed lips and it is my undoing. The heady scent assails me, that coppery tang is love and life and all things to me, in my twisted perpetual world. My senses are bombarded. My brain is awash, alive. I clench my fists, curl my toes and plead with myself.
He laughs now, no longer in my head, but out loud, so all can hear the chilling sound. His venom anaesthetises my feeble revolt. My mind is numb with need, my nerve endings tingle. I begin to salivate.
It’s almost time, I feel the approach of midnight almost as strongly as I feel him. I am torn, pulled by twin temptations. His hand reaches out and caresses my arm. His icy touch penetrates my skin through dermis down to bone. I incline my head, weak and helpless, as he reaches my neck. I am done for, beyond help. My futile plotting; my longing for the end is all for naught.
Raising my eyes, I see the clouds which shroud the night sky move gently and the moon, serene and all seeing, is released from darkness. All Hallows is upon us. I hear his gasp, the catch in his throat and finally, his weakness is revealed.
I have but a moment, the risk is great, yet I am suddenly energised, reckless in my naivety. I feel his bite, sharp and cold and my body reacts; as I know it will. Iciness transforms to burning heat. Capillaries swell and throb as I come alive, my blood rushes to navigate every shrunken vessel, my organs rejoice and for one brief moment I have the power and he has naught but need.
I pull him close; he shares my precarious position on the very edge of nowhere. Bedlam beckons. The boiling maelstrom reaches out its welcome. This time, I will not step out alone. I will not suffer the torment of another tortured existence, continually seeking redemption and finding nothing but trial and defeat. This time, I will take him with me and he will finally know what it is, this half life he has gifted.
The blade is sharp. I feel it against my palm. The silver glints in the lunar glow. It sings to me – a song of hope. His voice in my head is receding. My mind becomes free, filled now with the joyous sound of the blade as it pierces his flesh. His confusion is overwhelming, betrayal and disbelief. But I have him in my embrace and he is lost.
I step out into the void and this time, we make the final journey back to Bedlam...together.  

#2 One In Fifty

*According to recent statistics, one in fifty people are identified criminals. Some with small misdemeanours, and some, well some are as bad as any human can go.
The terrifying thing about statistics is that they are constantly changing, and unfortunately, not always for the better.
He dragged the chair, screaming against the friction of the stone floor. Detective King, blazed in embossed gold, glinted in the harsh light from the police badge worn over his heart.  He straddled the metal framed chair, gripped his hands on the table and leant in. “I hear you wanna make a statement.” King’s eyes narrowed into small slits at the man opposite him. His top teeth bit into his bottom lip. It would only take one swift movement to reach across the grimy laminated table, grab him by his throat and squeeze and squeeze, until the bastard took his last breath.
The man, dressed in a pale blue shirt, buttoned up to the collar, tilted his square framed head and blinked. His small black eyes dilated and his thin eyebrows raised slightly. “Yeah. I wanna make a statement.”
His words pierced like fingernails down a chalkboard.
He’d seen the bodies, every last one of them. All fourteen, still coffined in the cold morgue. Waiting for this goddam statement.
Taking out a recording device. King set it down on the table and hit the long black button. He cleared his throat, “October 31st 1991, 10:30 pm. Present: Detective Terence King and Mr John Larry Henderson of Long-Hill East street south.”
He stopped the recording and leant in further. Larry didn’t flinch, his eyes set in stone as he stared back. “Your turn.” King said simply and pressed the long black button once more.
Silence. King raised his eyes and moved in closer. “Your turn,” he whispered again.
Larry lowered his eyelids, and picked at his finger nails.
After a long settled silence, the air now ice cold. Larry finally looked up and spoke, “I only chose the good ones.”
“The good ones?”
“Every one. So good, so worthy.”
King suppressed the urge to throw the table and kick his twisted, sick arse. Well he wanted to do more than that…
Suppressing a spine tingling shudder, King asked the obvious. “Worthy… how did you decide if they were… worthy.” He spat the word out. Just using it in the presence of this demented son of a bitch, left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“They had to fit my criteria.”
More bile rising, threatening to choke him, but King steeled against his most basic instinct to hurl.
Larry fluttered his eyelids and a sucked in a sliver of a breath through his tight lips. “Except for that first one. She was tainted, ya know. Her cherry was blown.”
The chewed apple core nestled in the mouth of the young girl’s mutilated, carved body, came into his minds view as he remembered that first discovery.
“Now, the last one,” Larry continued. “She was my masterpiece.”
Christ! King had seen his artistry. He’d lived it every day, every hour, every minute for the past fifteen years. Endless sleepless nights. Halloween each year a real fucking nightmare. Knowing the M.O., knowing the inevitable, waiting for the call. Despite his hunting skills, he’d never come close to collaring him. And it ate him from the inside out. And at that last call. He had nothing left. He was spent.
And that’s when the game ended. That’s when Larry had walked into the Long-Hill Police Department and wanted to make a statement.  A statement to go with his collection. His collection of photographs. Sick, tormenting, photographs, that would haunt King for the rest of his days. The bodies had been bad enough, but seeing their faces before their deaths was like ripping his heart from his chest and beating it with a mallet.
He had failed them. Failed them all. He was responsible for those looks of sheer animalistic terror, before they’d been released from their torturous misery.
Larry smiled. The bastard actually smiled at him. And in that one instant, King knew. That smile would have melted butter in his twisted mouth. His gut wrenched at the realisation. That’s why they trusted him. There was not a trace of the devil in those smiling eyes. His innocence in that one fleeting moment floored King. He’d never seen anything like it. Those poor, sweet, young girls didn’t have a chance.
The smile faded and blackness returned to Larry’s eyes. “You wait till you see my masterpiece?”
Goddammit, he needed a drink. Not one. Several. And maybe a few snorts of the confiscated stash in the back office. He didn’t know how else he could keep sitting here. But he did sit there. He owed it to them. All fifteen of them.
King, managed a small nod.
“Fucking took me long enough to get it just right. But that last one. Beautiful. Just perfect she was.”
King stood up. The heat radiating from his skin, small beads of sweat to forming on his brow. He moved toward the jug set on a side table, and poured a cup of water. His insides convulsing. His stomach and throat muscles clenched so tight, he could barely swallow the sip he took.
“I’ll have one. Haven’t been offered a drink since I got here.”
King gripped the small plastic cup—hard . Giving this bastard anything, except a few choice punches in a few choice places, twisted his gut that little bit more. With a steady hand he poured another cup of water, took it back to his seat and slid it across the table.
Larry caught it with a quick movement and took three deep gulps before slamming the cup down. He wiped his mouth with the back of his pale smooth, hand. “So, I guess you want to know where she is?”
King swallowed.
“Marked the spot. Shouldn’t take you coppers long to find. Once I give you the coordinates.”
“And they are?” King uttered, slamming a map of the surrounding area on the table.
Larry pointed. Giving the first co-ordinate, then slid his slender finger across to give the second.
King rose and turned to the glass window, punching his finger on the exact spot. It would take at least an hour. Men were on the ground near the last sighting. The girl was only taken 10 hours ago. He shuddered at the thought of finding that marked grave. The sawn off hand holding a rosy red apple, with jack-o-lantern’s laughing face carved into it. And, propped beneath their neck, their last photo. Their last photo before their last breath.
He hated Halloween. He hated red apples. He hated Mr John Larry.
The call came in quicker than he expected, she was only metres from a rundown old graveyard. His mind clouded, his hands shook violently, as he put the phone in his jacket pocket.
Larry smiled again. “So, you found my masterpiece?”
“Brilliant. Fucking Brilliant,” Larry whispered.
The bile rose, King coughed to choke it down. He stood up so quickly, his chair fell back and crashed to the floor. The anger consumed him, the rage buried for so long, surfaced. His blood boiled as his insides burned. He wrenched the table away and sent it crashing into the brick wall.
Larry remained seated. Not moving, not twitching. Not saying anything.
King grabbed him by the scruff of his collar. He yanked the gun from his inside jacket and rammed it into the man’s forehead. Next minute the door slammed open and seven police officers ploughed through, all with guns trained on King and Larry.
“Now King, take it easy. You said you could handle this.” A rough voice spoke.
“I am fucking handling it. I’m handling it the only way this son of a bitch knows how to be handled.”
“Put the gun down, King. We found her. We don’t want to put our case in jeopardy. We got him. Let’s prosecute, all legal like.”
A laugh echoed around the brick chamber.  For a split second King wondered who it had come from, momentarily distracted by the lieutenant’s words.
Then he looked back into the eyes of the devil himself, as Larry continued to bark out a hollow laugh. “You go me? What a crock of shit. You got nothing.”
King held him tighter, pushing the gun further into his indented temple, his hand itching to pull the trigger. “What do ya mean, we got nothing!” he screamed.
“You bunch of dumbass cops. I said I wanted to make a statement. Not a confession.”
King brought his face closer and spat, “Too late. You sorry piece of crap.”
Mr John Larry from Long-hill South, scoffed, “No. You’re the sorry arse. I confessed to shit... I only admitted to taking the photographs. Your Jack-o-Lantern Killer is still on the loose. And I have no fucking idea what he looks like or where the fuckers gone.”

#3...Our First Halloween
For the three years we have been alive, Nancy and I have noticed that when the days get colder and damper, and the leaves go brown and tumble from the trees, there is a certain night when the kids dress up as witches or as skeletons or as ghosts or as vampires, followed, if they are small children, by their parents cloaked mostly in embarrassment and forced enthusiasm, and go and collect sweets from adults as they open their doors.

Well, Nancy and I like sweets, oh we do, so we decided to join in the festivities this year.

The first house where we found children knocking had a smiling fat woman in the doorway saying in an adult-to-child voice, “Would you like some sweeties?”

“Oh, yes, please,” the children said meekly with excitement in their voices.

“Here you are,” said the fat woman, holding out four sweets, one for each child.

However, before the children could take them, we had run up the path, leapt in the air and grabbed two of them, retreating at speed back towards the road to munch on our fairly-gotten gains as gasps and shrieks of surprise trailed behind us.

The sweets were delicious – fruity flavoured.

A few houses further down, a rather grumpy man who probably hadn’t wanted to open the door at all was reluctantly giving some kids chocolate. Chocolate! Mmmm.

Again we intercepted and again we made our escape trailed by similar gasps and shrieks.

We love chocolate but the trouble with sugar is that it buzzes us up and makes us more aggressive, so by the third open door we were almost fizzing down the street. We needed something more substantial. You cannot live off sweets alone, whatever children believe.

This time it was a little old lady kindly offering some home-made biscuits to two small children.

“Thank you, Mrs Blanchard,” the two small children said politely in unison. “We love your cookies.”

“Cookies?” she asked, bemused. “Oh you mean ‘biscuits’. You children nowadays, you watch far too much American TV. All that violence and all those made-up American words.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Blanchard,” the children said again and turned away.

We timed our run, scurrying past the children and reaching Mrs. Blanchard just before she closed the door.

Nancy ran up her left leg and I scampered up her right. Yes, we know it is not very nice up there, especially when they are really old, but she was wearing a skirt and it is difficult sometimes to catch the outside of it.

Mrs. Blanchard gave an ear-piercing scream and collapsed onto the floor, almost squashing us, before lying still.

“Are you all right, Nancy?” I asked.

“A bit winded,” she replied. “What about you, Victor?”

“Oh I’m fine,” I said. “This thigh is very soft.”

“Is she dead?” Nancy asked.

“I think so,” I replied. “I don’t think she will mind.”

“Suppose not,” said Nancy, “so long as she is dead.”

So we climbed up and buried our teeth into her cheeks, ripping away until we met up at the eyes that were wide open.

“Don’t fancy eating those,” Nancy said.

“Me neither. I wish we could take a leg home.”

“Don’t be silly, Victor. A couple of fingers would be nice, though.”

So that was our first Halloween, seen from our modest rat-sized point of view. It was fun. We got all the sweets we could eat, and some tender tasty meat, and a bit of exercise in the fresh air. We even think we entered fully into the spirit of things – some tricks, some treats, and the pervading atmosphere of creatures with rotting flesh.

As they say, never get sick, never get old.

Maybe we’ll see you next year.

#4…Dinner with The Devil…
Why are we doing this again?”
The wry, slightly aggrieved tone of the teacher's voice left Kenji struggling not to laugh. “Because you lost our bet, sensei,” he purred. “My prize is your company on this little adventure.”
Aoshi cracked his eyes open just enough to study the man next to him. “I already told you, I don't believe in ghosts. If you're just trying to get a rise out of me you'll be sorely disappointed.”
“Oh my, sensei. If that was what I wanted I would have been much more direct.” Kenji's deep rumbling chuckle sent goosebumps skittering over the teacher's skin. “It's supposed to be the most haunted place in all of Japan. I just want to see why it has such a dark reputation.”
“Weak fools who wanted to be scared,” Aoshi declared. “People see what they want to see.”
“So the thought of dinner with the devil doesn't even give you pause?”
“Devil, schmevil, can't be any worse than some of the human octopuses I've dated.”
“Let's hope you're right,” Kenji murmured as he pulled off the road onto a twisting drive. Conversation ebbed as he turned his concentration to the narrow rutted track. Mushrooms of all shapes and sizes had taken root in the pitted surface, churning to a slippery ooze under the tires. The vehicle  slipped and slid, scraping against the encroaching underbrush until it finally burst into a small clearing.
The house itself was ordinary enough, wood faded to a soft grey, the surprisingly intact shoji tightly shut. If he didn't know better Kenji would have assumed it to be carefully maintained by a loving owner.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Aoshi's question jolted him out of his daze. “It doesn't look haunted.”
Kenji didn't reply, instead he busied himself gathering their supplies. He grasped the teacher's arm at the elbow and steered him up onto the engawa. “Last chance to back out.”
“As if I'd give you the satisfaction,” Aoshi grumbled. He slid open the shoji and stepped inside, yanking his friend in behind him. “Looks harmless enough.”
Light filtered in through the yellowed paper on the shoji, giving the space a warm amber glow that was almost welcoming. The aged tatami creaked and rustled under their feet, each step kicking up a cloud of dust. The teacher shook out the blanket he was carrying, spreading it in the middle of the floor and pulling his companion down to sit. “This is as good a place as any. I'm starving.”
As unimpressive as the room looked, the tiny hairs on the back of Kenji's neck prickled with danger. He rummaged in the picnic basket, pulling out three lacquered bento boxes, chopsticks, sake, and three tiny saucers.
“Three?” Aoshi asked. “Is someone joining us?”
“Can't have dinner with the devil and not feed him.” Kenji poured sake into three saucers and lifted his in a toast. “To a most enlightening evening.”
“Kanpai.” The teacher took a sip, sighing as the warmth slid down his throat and started a glow in his belly. “That is nice. I just hope you didn't make these yourself. I've seen the glop you call food.”
“And risk insulting the prince of darkness? It's from that sushi place near your apartment, the one you always rave about.”
“Then let's eat.” Aoshi clapped his hands together. “Itadakimasu,” he murmured as he grabbed a pair of chopsticks.
“It's rather impolite to start without your host, don't you think?”
The surprisingly mellow voice grew closer. “It's been a long time since I've had guests, especially on this night.”
“What night?”Aoshi croaked. He kept his eyes stubbornly fixed on the tatami as bare feet and the hem of a man's kimono passed next to him.
“Why, All Hallow's Eve, of course. The night when restless spirits walk the earth. I tend to forget you don't celebrate it here.” The newcomer settled himself cross-legged, hands reaching for the waiting saucer of sake.
Kenji idly noted the man now seated opposite him kicked up no dust as he moved. He clamped down hard on the nausea bubbling in his throat, lifting his eyes to the middle of the figure's chest. From the neck down he looked ordinary enough, a slight man in a simple dark kimono. A tiny part of his mind gleefully urged him to look up and disprove the myth once and for all, but his natural paranoia overrode it.
“Your companion is quite lovely, I can certainly see the attraction.” The deceptively simple statement triggered protective instincts Kenji never imagined he possessed.
“He's mine.”
“Really? He doesn't smell like you.” The stranger inhaled deeply. “But he does smell sweet. Why don't you and I make a little trade. I'll let you go, and you leave him to keep me amused.”
“Never.” Kenji leapt to his feet, pulling the teacher behind him. “Don't look. Just back out through the door.”
“You're being very rude.” Aoshi clamped his hand over his traitorous lips in an attempt to stop the words that flowed from his mouth, in his voice, but were certainly not his. “We intruded on his solitude,” he continued to mumble around the obstruction. “The least we can do is finish our meal.”
“That's an excellent idea.” The stranger reached to take the teacher's hand, but Kenji pivoted, fingers digging into Aoshi's biceps before flinging him through the open door.
Cold seared through him, the outstretched hand now resting companionably on his shoulder. “It's amazing how often that works.”
“Wh-wh-what?” Kenji stammered. The door shook as Aoshi pounded on it from outside, but the sound was curiously distant.
“I mean think about it,” the stranger continued. “What would someone like me want with someone as nice as your friend. You on the other hand . . .” Kenji squeezed his eyes shut and prayed to all the deities he had never believed in. “ . . .you have possibilities.”
* * *
The police dismissed it as a lover's quarrel. A perfunctory visit to the caved in ruin of a house guaranteed they would not believe him. Kenji slipped out of conversation, then memory.
Yet every year on October 31, Aoshi returned with dinner for three. “I've brought our dinner,” he'd announce. “Are you tired of him yet? He really can be an asshole, sometimes. But, if you're done with him, I'd love to have him back, we never finished our date.” With a respectful bow he laid out two bento and poured two saucers of sake, retreating to the engawa to eat his portion under open sky.


Julianne stood in the bus queue at Strangling Road with all the other late night cinema addicts, awaiting the last bus. It was usually late and mostly full. If you were lucky you could strap hang, until the bus terminated close to the council housing estate by the Cemetery gates.

She was not only thirsty and in need of sustenance, but also feeling the cold in her thin jacket and short skirt. The angora beret perched on her head was just for show as were the heeled boots she wore.

Glancing up at the full moon which hung suspended in the sky, Julianne almost gave in to her devilish thoughts about howling, but restrained herself. No one else seemed to be interested in it and smiling to herself, she watched alone.

Strangling Road didn’t really exist at all, but that’s what the locals now called it. Recently a young woman, had been held at knife point, strangled and then fatally stabbed. Several weeks later it had happened again, but this time there had been other marks which had been unaccounted for.

Julianne decided to pass the time with a young fella in front of her.

Late again as usual and its started to rain!

The man didn’t seem to want to talk, and pulled up the collar of his bomber jacket to stop the fine drizzle cascading down his neck. His black baseball cap was pulled down low over his dark hooded eyes. He then shoved his hands into the jacket pockets and looked gloomily into the distance for the arrival of the bus. Julianne was just a bit slighted. She was quite a looker and rarely had to force men to talk to her, so she tried again

Any idea what time the bus is due sweetie?

“Nope!” Came the short response.

“Got a light for my smoke?” She asked removing one from the now squashed packet she fished out of her jacket.

Silently he took his lighter from his pocket and flicked it into action. She bent down to light up and then inhaled deeply. Looking straight into his eyes she said,

“Talkative, ain’tcha.”

He didn’t want to talk; he had many things on his mind tonight. His latest had just given him the elbow in favour of one of his best mates, and he was off women big time!
He started to feel unusually, aggressive. He hated it when women pissed him off, but Ok if she wanted to talk, he could talk the talk no problem. He would scare her shitless. He regularly caught this bus and had seen her several times before, flaunting it and on offer to takers…

“So, you go all the way then? He asked suggestively.

Whoa that’s a turnaround; alright if he could flirt so could she.

“As far as it takes us” she smiled at him.

Leaning in closer he put his arm loosely around her shoulders to gauge her reaction. Putting her arm around his waist she looked up into his dark eyes and closed the gap.

“Here’s a suggestion. How about if we walk to the cemetery gates, instead of catching the bus? It’s bound to be full and it should only take us about ten minutes if we take a short cut I know, down the back of Strangling Road.”

Julianne thought about his suggestion for a moment. It had stopped drizzling now but the bus still wasn’t in sight.

“Ok, why not. What’s your name by the way?”

“Raymond, but most of my friends at work call me Ray.”

“I’m Julianne. What d’ya do then Ray?” she asked making conversation.

“I’m a trainee butcher see, and this last few weeks I’ve been learning how to cut meat. Some off those knives are that sharp, I sliced through a side of beef in one cut.” he said almost as if he was looking for respect.

She gave it to him.

“Wow that’s awesome Ray” and for an extra incentive she gave his waist a squeeze pleasing him.
“This is the shortcut I was telling you about. It’s just past these bushes and trees here.”

As they walked along the path shielded by the trees they approached a bit of rough scrub land. He stopped and roughly kissed her with his eyes open enabling him to take a quick look around. He then pushed her to the ground, at the same time palming his knife.
Quick as a flash she was on top of him. Drawing back her lips she exposed her now visible fangs and sank her teeth into his neck as he let out screams of horror. As he passed out into oblivion she took the knife he had dropped and stabbed him.

“See how you like being stabbed through the heart.  At least I’m clean and swift. We have to endure a wooden stake!” she added venomously through her now bloodied fangs. She didn’t care which sex her victim was. Generally females were more trusting of other women, but blood was food and she drank greedily.

As Julianne stood up her features changed and she shook out her black wings. Taking flight into the black sky, she glided slowly upwards towards the full harvest Halloween moon as a hint of a cloud started to cover it. She called to the large black crows high in the trees, and then swept down as she reached the cemetery gates. She needed to rest up and where better than here.

Tomorrow night she would be ready to take the return bus back to Strangling Road. 

#6... Witchy.
 A full symphony of screams seared through the darkness around the old warehouse.   Winifred, a college sophomore, mused as one corner of her blood red lips curved up in smug satisfaction.   Such unabashed reactions!   She dropped her head back to catch the ghostly glow of the full moon on her nearly flawless face and felt her long dark hair wave across her hips.   She reached up to reposition the gigantic wide brim of her oversized witch hat. She wore it well.  She sauntered.   Moonlight seemed to absorb into her long opalescent nails as she stretched out her arm to admire them.   A ghoulish figure popped up beside her.   She flinched then smiled, “What are you?” The steady clunk of her long black high-heeled boots never missed a beat.  The figure growled, “Happy Halloween, Winnie!” “Uh!  Townley, I should have known it was you.   Your aftershave gave you away.”  The latex mask slightly moved with his face as he smiled, “Nice, Hugh?” Winnie glanced at him sideways without moving her head.   “Uh sure, yeah. Where’s Linda?”   “She’ll be along in a minute.   She had trouble with her tail and decided to wear black gloves.   She dropped one somewhere and was looking for it.”    “ Why didn’t you help her?”    “I’m her brother, not her man servant.” 
        A young woman’s voice interrupted, “Winnie, wait up!”   Linda was dressed as a stunning black cat with a long tail that curved up on the end, and twirled circles as she trotted to catch up.   She panted, “You look great!” Winnie paused and turned toward her, “you too!  I feel much better now that my familiar is with me.”  Linda smiled back with a meow.   She scratched at the air with one paw.   Professor Strict wants an outline by tomorrow, so I’ll have to make it an early night.”  She rolled her almond shaped eyes at Winnie.   “Well,” retorted Winnie, “Maybe I should cast a spell on him!”  Winnie was carrying a cordless electric broom.   She raised it into the air and revved the switch on for an instant.  Townley piped up from behind the young women, “What’s that thing for?”   “It’s my broom, dearie!  I’m a modern witch – no old fashioned flying stick for me!”   She revved it again.   “It can clean a dorm room too.   Now, if I could just make it clean by itself.”   She shrugged then turned on Linda and Townley with a menacing leer.   “Are you ready to be scared?” Townley jumped straight up and punched his fist into the air as he shouted, “Yeah, baby, bring it!”
      They stood at the entrance of the haunted house with its garish decorations.  Winnie raised her eyebrows.   “Well, it looks like our favorite fraternity knocked themselves out.” Linda giggled, “We’ll see.   Townley, you go first so the fake spider webs will drag over you instead of me.   They’ll get caught in my whiskers.”  He turned to her, “Sheesh!    You all want me to do everything for you.”  He chuckled and trotted ahead.   Linda followed and Winnie was last.   “There must be a lull in the group - hardly anyone else here right now.”  Linda called back to Winnie, “Yeah, I heard it was packed a while ago.”  As they walked in, rubber tarantulas suspended from invisible strings wiggled down upon their heads.  Linda ducked, “Eeewww!  Better hold onto your hat, Winnie!”    “Thanks, Lind!”   Winnie clutched the brim with both hands.  Linda and Townley wandered ahead through a turn, and Winnie lost sight of them.   Suddenly, there was a chorus of screams from up ahead where they had gone.   To Winnie’s surprise, two huge hairy ape arms grabbed her from behind, lifted her into the air, and dragged her back through a curtain.   For an instant, she thought it was part of the haunted house, but quickly changed her mind and screamed.  But her screams only blended in with the others.   The man in the gorilla suit was big.   No matter how Winnie struggled, she could not wrench herself free.  No, no… this is part of the prank. He’s just a frat guy and he’ll let me go now!   Then, fake fur muffled her mouth as he continued to drag her back into the unlit, uninhabited halls.  She panicked, gasping for air that was nearly shut off by the huge hand and screaming through the fur, but there was no use.  By then, Linda and Townley were out of hearing distance and Winnie had already dropped her only weapon, her broom.    She thought she heard him shove his back into a door handle to open it, and felt the cold breeze of the outdoors.   Her heels were dragging over rugged blacktop instead of polished concrete.   Winnie writhed to break free, and even though her adrenaline kicked in, the extra strength was not enough.  The hairy hand left her mouth long enough to open a van door.  Winnie heard the familiar sliding  sound.   The man dragged her up into it.   Never let them take you to a second place.  The words of wisdom rang in her mind, but she was helpless.   Tape went over her mouth, her wrists, and her ankles, but Winnie was not ready to give up.   She tapped into the only resource she could think of – her mind.   She had always been a mental antenna, a receiver of telepathic messages and now, she intended to reverse that ability, to unleash her thoughts onto this beast man as he drove.   It was all she had left.  She silently chanted.   Wreck, wreck, wreck, you bastard! Tears washed down her face onto the tape over her mouth.   She inhaled through her nose and refocused her thoughts with all her might.   Wreck the van.   Wreck this van, wreck!   She put herself into a sort of trance, some meditative state that took over all of her consciousness, WRECK, WRECK, WRECK.   She dared not allow herself to whimper, because she knew it would weaken the power.   Minutes passed.   The beast man accelerated.   The van seemed to go airborne as it flew along the road.   Suddenly, it sounded as if he took his foot from the accelerator.   He gasped, and then screamed a scream worthy of Winnie’s intentions as glass crashed.   There were a multitude of crunching noises as the van lurched freakishly around for what seemed minutes.  Winnie tumbled back and forth on the floor between the seats.     Finally, after some time, the forward motion ground to a slow jolting stop.  Winnie’s eyes were pinched shut in terror.   She scraped together her last bit of courage to open them.   Am I dead?   Everything was dark.   She rolled onto her back the best she could, because her hands were still taped behind her.   She looked up and saw a reflection of something in the moonlight.  Just under the ceiling of the van were long metal pipes that went all the way through the front windshield.   She twisted around on her side to see better and screamed behind the tape that still covered her mouth.   Half of the driver’s head was gone and in its place was one of the pipes.   It was too gruesome.   Winnie’s gaze flinched away.   Within seconds, she thought she heard men’s voices outside and passed out in relief.   In a dreamlike state, she felt herself on a rolling gurney that bumped up into an ambulance.   She heard men’s voices shouting, “Pipe trailer.  He impaled that van on a pipe trailer after he came off a curve.”   The van door opened.   After a minute, she heard another man’s voice, “It’s a miracle that girl is alive.”
         The next day, a doctor at the hospital told Winnie she had a mild concussion and released her to the caring arms of Linda and Townely.  She was dressed in her crumpled modern witch costume, without the hat.   The leather on the back of her boots was shredded.   She did not even attempt to put the ripped stockings back on over her bloody abraded knees, so her pale legs stood out between the boots and the bottom of her black skirt.   Though she was thoroughly sore and spotted with small bandages, she pulled herself up straight and hobbled along with the best of her ability.  Townley broke the uncomfortable silence, “You caught one lucky break, Winnie.” Linda looked on sympathetically.   She was dressed in regular clothing, but her cat makeup was still visible in a few places.  Winnie frowned at Linda, “I suppose you didn’t get your outline finished because of all this.”  Linda gently touched Winnie’s arm “Don’t even think about it.   I’ll make it up later.”  Once Winnie split from the two friends to enter her dorm room, she sat on the bed and wondered if her reverse telepathy had worked or even saved her life.  Had she killed her abductor with her mind?   She gazed across the room into her mirror, “well, mister, you should never have tangled with a witchy woman.”  She shared a crooked smile with her reflection.

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