Blood spilled over onto the cruel hand that had just squeezed life out of her latest victim. Such a strong little girl, she mused before laughing. The same dry cackle exuded from the ravenous bellows deep within her mottled soul. She stopped and looked around; her long nails scratched uncouthly at her long, flowing, ragged garb. What she saw was completely different. No tatters or drab, grey bloodied stain. She only saw ‘true’ beauty, which she was not. Her large feet clunked around the dusty grit as she sniffed the air before running a tawdry sleeve across her nose, blistered and generous.
“Ye gods, another day, another year. It gets monotonous,” she said sighing. “Little upstarts trying to outdo me. Will they ever learn?”
A few miles away Jane, Sarah and Sasha giggled in a bedroom littered with costumes and lipsticks and high hopes and plans for a Halloween to be remembered. This was to be Sasha’s initiation. Thomas, her major crush, was to be there at the party in the woods. Sarah looked at the clock and wondered where Susan and Bobby had got to.
“They were due here at 6 after practise. We don’t have her costume and we haven’t much time.”
The others were not so concerned.
“She probably can’t leave go of Bobby. That’s nothing new. They’ll be here.”
Susan lay all alone. Her hair, once a golden shrill of curls, lay dank and muddied on the floor near an old oak tree. Bizhar kicked at dead autumn leaves and kicked in the bag of fancy dress Susan had with her. With hands astride her hips, she grunted to herself.
“Takes more than costumes and weird hair to make a witch. I should know.” She laughed mercilessly again and pointed gnarled, bony fingers at her pile of wanton savagery and watched the fire consume both the mound of dead leaves and its contents. The wind had carried an item of clothing without Bizhar noticing, and it was swept away until caught on branches near the road.
“Where the heck?” said Bobby as he lifted the cuff of his sweater for the tenth time and paced. He wondered whether he should now start to head Susan’s way and meet her coming but once again changed his mind. He reached for his phone and hovered over the keypad then flipped it shut. Agitated, he tried once more.
The ring tone startled Bizhar as she knelt still beside the pyre. Quizzically she looked around before standing upright and soon aimed her lifeless green eyes at the flames. Inside them, it seemed, was the source of her irritation. She rolled back a sleeve and held it whilst plunging her arm through the leaves and flames. She reached about blindly then lowered further onto her knees, cursing and spitting smoke and embers.
Finally she pulled out and held aloft one of Susan’s arms before flinging it. Then, thinking again, she rescued it and threw it back into the fire. She eventually found the offending article still sounding and just about intact. She turned it every which way, then with much fumbling and by simple accident she heard a voice.
“Ah, I know. Yes!” Bihzar thought, stroking the greying hairs under her long chin. She postured vainly and with a hideous mocking that belied her contempt for the mortals she saw as the bane of her life with their toys and fancy, vacant ways. She was stopped by the sudden frantic yell.
“Susan, are you there?” Bobby’s panicked voice asked. “Where have you been? Where are you?”
Bihzar ran ragged nails through her long, unruly, wizened hair and lifted a shoulder slightly, at the same time casting a glance to her trophy set ablaze, recalling the piteous screams and pleas for mercy. ‘Susan’s’ voice emanated and ran through the phone.
“I am here in the woods. I had a little trouble, but I’m OK. If you could come meet me though – about half way – we can go from here and it would save me walking.” A ragged fingertip traced dried lips holding a grey, green smirk.
“OK, no problem,” Bobby replied with relief. “Say, if I go pick up Thomas and the others, we could just meet at Ted’s old farm since time’s getting short. How does that sound? I’ll call them…or you can.”
“No, no, you call. I… am… er…” the old croc said, scanning the interface for clues. “I’m low on something… battery?”
“Ha! OK you weirdo. I’ll call. Talk to you soon.”
Bizhar began to smell things, good things, amid the charcoals and debris that were Susan’s remains. Plans, visions, more young blood and meat: treats for a deserving soul this Halloween Eve. The passing of time was irksome, she thought to herself, with fragility and aging as the years dragged on into centuries. But today was a day for celebration nonetheless as birthdays always were. She cackled at her own devilish humour. “I am still as beautiful and as strong and powerful as ever.”
She then picked from her teeth a bit of flesh that had been trapped. She wiped her fingers down her front and began to walk, waving her arms at her side anticipating the evening ahead.
Perched on the old timbers in one of Ted’s old barns, which had stood derelict for years but which still housed the cobwebbed tools, machinery parts and old hay, Bizhar swung her legs like a school kid. No one had ever bought the property due to rumours and it being the local Bermuda triangle as far as missing people and unsolved cases went. This was half the lure and appeal of kids today around these parts, especially at Halloween.
Jane and Sarah came downstairs first and gave a twirl for Jane’s folks.
“You look gruesome enough, though it’s kinda hard to tell,” said her half pumpkin, half victim-oozing-blood kid brother all geared up for his night of mayhem. Sasha soon followed, equally decked out except for a change in theme, as this was her night, one she’d dreamed of.
Jane’s parents cooed and walked around her. “What’s the occasion? I thought this was Halloween, not a fairy tale.”
Sasha wanted to be stunning, just right for Thomas, and answered, “I, er well, let’s say we get enough of the same old, same old. I wanted to be different, a beauty among the beasts.”
“Well it hasn’t worked. You are still a witch, ha, ha.” The kid then hastily scarpered through the front door. “See you guys later.”
The girls, on the other hand, waited for the sound of the horn from Bobby’s car and their ride to fun.
Sure enough, the horn sounded, and there, hanging out the windows, were the three friends ready to give their dates a night to remember. Sasha only had eyes for the suave vampire as he jumped out of the car and swooned at her feet. Luke, the hunchback, greeted Jane and picked her up, screaming ‘Esmerelda, the bells’ before she had a chance to compliment him on his hump. Sarah’s favourite idiot, in the bloodied bed sheet and holes, was Brian, who escorted her to the car.
Bobby yelled for them all to get in. “Susan will be waiting! Hurry it up!”
The music blasted as they drove towards Old Ted’s farm, and laughter trailed through the lanes as they went. A heavy fog had begun to appear as they wound down the tracks and turned into the farm. Bobby slowed and peered deliberately for Susan through his windscreen.
“Maybe she’s further in. It is cold…a barn maybe?” said Jane, trying to thwart a rubber eye from nestling near her wench-like bustier.
Bobby nodded and carried on. Suddenly, he screeched to a halt, throwing the others slightly. It was a rabbit then a flurry of them, followed by critters of all kinds, running as if for their lives.
“What? That’s crazy. It’s a stampede,” said Bobby, who couldn’t believe his eyes. They all watched from the back window as the animals trailed off into the dark.
Smoke billowed steadily as Bizhar added the last of the slaughtered pests to her makeshift stove that rested on bricks and sticks atop an old tractor’s engine. Impatient and peckish, she stirred at her broth, rich and thick with the blood of her captured guests. She sat, legs agape, and stirred on, twitching and murmuring now and then at the thought of the treats for later, now steadily approaching. The burgundy sauce bubbled, and then Bizhar saw a glimpse of something through the murky stew…
The ‘wedding’ ceremony began. Sasha’s big day. She stood smiling next to Thomas, his fangs gleaming. Jane and Sarah held their bouquets, which seemed incongruous amid the costumes and setting, but before their Halloween festivities could begin, the wedding had to take place. It was Sasha and Thomas’ initiation into their group. Luke and Jane, Sarah and Brian and Bobby and Susan were ‘old married men and women.’ Sasha was doubly keen: besides it being unusual, she had only had eyes for Thomas since starting college, and if this was a way of getting him, then who was she to argue.
Bobby, a bit amiss without Susan but resigned to the possibility that she might have given up and gone home, pronounced Sasha and Thomas ‘man and wife,’ and they all ran out into the slightly chilled farmyard where the others jibed and threw loose straw and any old things found about them. Stale manure as a confetti substitute was one that did not go down too well.
Bobby’s head jerked around when he thought he heard Susan shouting. “Hey, listen up. Quiet! Did you hear that?”
They all fell silent and listened. “No, you’re imagining things,” came a reply.
“It was Susan. I’m sure of it. I mean, how many kids would come here – sane kids? I am going to take a look around.” Before Bobby could take a step, they all heard a scream and a cry for help coming from one of the barns.
“Susan! You’re right,” Jane spat out. “Shit!”
They ran towards the barn.
Hampered somewhat by his over-sized cloth slippers, Luke soon discarded them, slipping his sweaty mask into his pocket. He issued instructions to Thomas and Bobby. “You two search this one. Girls, stay here!” He ran off toward another barn.
“No way,” Jane piped up. “We’re coming.”
They heard sobbing high in the rafter. “I’m up here. I can’t get back down,” she screamed. “I’m hurt. Please get me down!”
“How in the hell did you get up there?” asked Bobby, running his hands through his hair frantically. “OK, girls, go get help. The damn phones are in the car. Go! Call for help and tell Luke we are over here will you?”
Luke studied the smells emanating from inside the other barn as he edged in. It seemed to explain the animals somewhat, but it stank grotesquely. He’d killed a few rabbits in his time and eaten them, but this was something else.
From nowhere, a hand was on his collar, the jagged nails piercing his skin to the bone as Bizhar lifted him up effortlessly and dangled her dessert, licking her lips. She nonchalantly placed his body, twitching and dripping warm juice, on a nearby hook. “Sweet,” she thought. “Very sweet.” She cackled, grazing the air with putrid breath, and put on the mask she’d taken from Luke’s pocket.
She stripped off and donned the rest of his garb including his slippers, which she’d collected from where he had dropped them. Bizhar made her way to the barn where she could hear the others desperately trying to rescue ‘Susan’. She laughed and shook her head coolly and swayed across the yard, pleased with how good she was at ‘throwing’ her voice as well as impersonations; she had forgotten – it had been a while since festivities had been so full.
Bizhar poked her head through the frame of a window, and they turned.
“Luke, she’s here. Give us a hand.” The masked figure didn’t respond, instead beckoning with a finger before leaving the window.
“What the fuck?” Bobby said in disbelief. “We don’t need games.”
Just then they heard a muffled voice saying something about ladders, so they followed. Susan had gone quiet. They reassured her and said they’d be back.
Outside, the three young men stood perplexed, as they saw no sight of Luke.
“Great!” Brian said as he swung around. “What’s he up to?”
They saw a ladder sliding out from between broken boards nailed across a window and ran towards it, hands out to receive it. They tugged but met resistance.
“OK,” said Brian. “Thomas, you and Bobby go around and help Luke. I will pull from here.” The two disappeared through a splintered slot. After waiting and tugging some more, he yelled, “Where the heck are you guys. It can’t be that hard. Luke?”
“OK, I’m here.” Luke’s voice seemed strange. “Give it a pull now. Reach in a bit first. I need your arm through the window.” The unfamiliar voice did not deter Brian, who was thinking of Susan and wondering how the girls had done about getting help. He reached in with his arm and felt a sharp tug and soon he was wedged between the frame and the ladder.
“Whoa, strong man. Be careful!”
Bizhar removed the mask, and Brian saw behind her the full hideousness of his fate. He was brought in slowly, piece by piece. His arm, neck and head were severed with little effort, the torso dropping to the ground outside the window. Bihzar decided she’d treat herself with some of the delicacies and gorge tomorrow; she would have all day tomorrow. She hung the pieces on the hooks available. All had been filled with what was left of Jane, Sarah and Sasha along with the boys…
Her grumbling stomach roared, bringing Bizhar back from her vision, and she stirred the pot of animal slime once more. Laughing, she shook her head and kicked it over and started again. She proceeded to add small, carefully selected pieces of sweetmeats to her new broth of blood now simmering before her.