Saturday, October 31, 2009

Story time for Halloween!

To preface: I wrote this one a couple of years ago...the story was inspired by my visit to Creepyworld in Fenton, Mo., one of the best haunted attractions you'll find in America at this time of the year. The Horror Town in this story, therefore, is not meant to be based on Creepyworld or any other haunted attraction you can find. (That I know of!) And if there are any similarities between my fictional creation and something real, then of course it's coincidental and unintentional.

Happy Halloween, by the way! :D

Written by Charles Spencer

The Monster Mash was in full swing over the P.A. system by the time Chris got to the pay window.

He paid for tickets by credit card to get into Horror Town, a haunted attraction in the sticks, this Halloween was about fourteen minutes before midnight. Chris paid for his own way, along with his girl Janice and their friends Drake, Tim and Deirdre. The last two were romantically joined at the hip, like Chris and Tim and Deirdre's case literally joined, it seemed, their arms around each other; they kissed every few minutes deeply as they waited in line. Janice could only shake her head and giggle at the sight of them, they were so into one another. She and Chris were, as well, but they had been together for much longer...time helped them restrain themselves in public. Drake, who was without a girlfriend at that moment, considered Tim and Deirdre with a longing expression. (He'd always had a crush on Deirdre.)

The group arrived at Horror Town early, but they were still almost too late to beat the late-night rush. Chris, Janice and the others beat the main throng of thrill seekers and 'scaredevils' (Tim's pet name for himself and anyone else looking for a good fright), but there were dozens already there even before the pay windows opened. It was the most popular attraction of this holiday in the region, taking up over a hundred square acres of flat undeveloped property, divided into sections representing a town in and of itself. Horror Town, true to its name, was different from any other town in the sense it was populated by any and every form of nightmare creature and unfortunate soul that could be dreamed of by the brother and sister who created the attraction almost ten years before. It had grown in size along with popularity over the years, and got big enough and upgraded enough to qualify for township status.

As they milled forward, Tim said eagerly, "This is gonna be the shit, guys. I was here last year -- !"

"We know, Tim," Janice said coolly. "You've told us enough times."

"But what they got this year's supposed to be bigger and better." To Chris, Tim began to sound like one of Horror Town's radio commercials. "I know they're gonna have things in there that'll fuck you guys up -- !"

"Please chill, man, and tone down the freaking cussing," Chris said, looking at him hard.

Janice chimed, "Thank you!" She wrapped an arm around Chris' waist.

"Think about younger ears, all right?" Chris nodded to the family of four ahead of them...a father, mother, and their son and daughter. The kids looked like they were still in Kindergarten, and they were giggling, most likely because of Tim's overly-enthusiastic testimonial. The father looked behind him to spare Tim a brief but dark warning glance.

Even in the area where customers waited and paid, the employees of Horror Town who took the money and acted as ushers for the crowd were dressed for Halloween. So were many of the customers, but it seemed no expense was spared to help them look good enough (or bad enough, depending on the point of view) to scare the crap out of people by sight alone. Some were simply Goth in appearance, their skin pale with grease paint in stark contrast to the obsidian black of their clothes...others were in the typical neo-horror style made famous by George Romero and some Japanese video game makers; they looked like undead, condemned unfortunates who reflected various degrees of gruesome, blood-stained glory. One of them, a guy who was made up to look like he had a few bites taken from his neck and chest, stalked forward and shouted, "BOO!" at some of the customers, scaring a few silly...but he got an enthusiastic "Arrooo!" in response from a customer wearing a Chewbacca mask.

The usher who took the tickets from Chris, Janice and their friends was pure Goth: she was an ethereal beauty who looked like Wednesday Adams might if she had the chance to get past puberty. In spite of her looks, her good nature shone through as she smiled and said, "I'm Mandy, and thanks for visiting Horror Town! You guys ready to get scared?"

Again, full of enthusiasm, Tim said, "Hell yeah!"

He wasn't exactly the spokesman for the group. Drake gave him a look and grunted, "God, give it a rest."

Chris shrugged and said to Mandy, "We'll see if we get scared of not."

Mandy's smile got brighter considering Chris. "Ohhh, okay! You think you've seen it all, huh?"

Chris nodded and said, "If I haven't, then there's something I missed." That was the truth. Chris, like many Americans, liked to be scared and were constant consumers of the more grue-drenched aspects of pop culture. He didn't consider himself an authority, but Chris had seen a lot. He'd seen so much he sometimes wondered if he got desensitized to the gore and violence, like some political assholes left and right said.

Mandy asked, "What do you think you're gonna see in there? I won't spoil things with an answer, but I will tell you if you're close or not."

Chris grinned. "Okay...a haunted town? I'm thinking Black Falls."

Janice gave Chris a mock expression of disdain and groaned, "Oh, my God!" Black Falls was one of the most popular video game series to come from Japan, and Chris (among many others) played it religiously, so to speak. The games concerned an unassuming town that was in fact a nexus to Hell itself. Janice never understood how her boyfriend could enjoy playing games like that.

Tim said quickly, "Naw, man, it's gonna be bigger and better than that!" Then he gave Mandy a look and asked, "Right?"

Mandy looked at them all, her smile mischievous. "You're thinking 'The Town That Takes Your Soul,' huh? You're wrong...mostly." She added that last word almost hesitantly, but she was honest. "You'll also find some Eli Roth and Wes Craven, and of course Roger Corman among other influences. I prefer Vincent Price, though. You know what they say: there's no such thing as an original idea, only new spins on old stories. But give Horror Town a chance, okay? You might be impressed."

Chris nodded. "If I wasn't willing to give it a chance, I wouldn't be here." He looked at Janice, his eyes soft. "But I can't have a good time anywhere without you, baby."

Tim couldn't help but say, "Tooty fuckin' fruity!" A pop culture joke in response to Chris' pet name for his girl that made everyone laugh. Janice smiled warmly at her boyfriend, and her arm around his waist tightened adoringly.

"Lovebirds, huh?" Mandy's mischievous expression was in high gear as she nodded to another usher, who opened the entrance gate to Horror Town for the group. "Just remember our Golden Rule. Our actors won't touch you, but they will do their best to scare you out of your don't touch them, for any reason, or you're out on your butts. And no running, remember might be tempted to while screaming your heads off, but don't for safety's sake. Outside of that..." Mandy gestured with a flourish to the open gates and bowed...her voice shifted into one of (almost) genuine menace when she declared, "Have a good scare, you poor fools."

Full of enthusiasm and nervous anticipation...they entered Horror Town. It was nine minutes before midnight.

The first portion of the attraction was Old Horror Town, and it was like a surreal step backward in time. They crossed through an old gold mining camp, which thanks to an ominous voice that spoke over a local P.A. speakers scattered through the area, was the beginning of what would become Horror Town. This place already looked like a refuge for the damned, though, with actors who appeared to be ghouls slinging their pickaxes not into the earth in search of gold, but into gory lumps on the ground. Blood sprayed from them as a result, much to Janice and Deirdre's shock...the guys in the group, though, grinned at the over-the-top nature of the spectacle. Two more ghouls were singing a song in voices slurred by death as they roasted a human leg on a spit over an open fire. One ghoul with a pickaxe over his shoulder stalked toward them and groaned, "You got some treasure? Show me your treasure!" The closer he got, the quicker the pace of his steps became, and he readied his pickaxe. "Show me your treasure, fools! Let me dig your treasure out of you! Let me dig at your INSIDES!" He was only two feet from them as he shouted that last, and Drake took a step back reflexively with round eyes as the girls screamed and hugged their boyfriends. All laughed nervously when they realized that was as close as he'd get to them, and they continued on as the ghoul yelled behind them at another group for whatever treasure they might have.

Chris, Janice and the others realized they were moving forward in history, too, with each step they took. Just beyond the mining camp was a ghost town that was much more in place with what one would imagine of the American Old West. As they walked down its dusty main street, which to their discomfort was stained red in many areas, they saw that to call it a ghost town was wishful thinking, considering the sights they took in.

Chris felt something felt like a wind, but that wasn't quite the right way to describe it. At the same time, Drake was looking at the bright LCD of his watch and said, "Hey guys, it's officially midnight. The Witching Hour." But he said it quietly, as if suddenly distracted.

Janice looked at Chris with sudden worry. "Honey, did you just feel...?" She stopped, unsure...Chris thought she looked exactly the way he felt. They looked at Tim and Deirdre holding each other, and they looked back with equal disquiet.

Something happened...but they had no idea what. Not yet. Not knowing how to act on what they were afraid to accept was something they all felt, they continued down the main street.

This Wild West version of Horror Town was a bleak, deadly sight. The storefronts were bleeding in some places, and undead roamed to and fro. Some were gunslingers, or once unfortunate had no arm above where he holstered his Colt .45. (The makers of Horror Town clearly had a good grip on the concept of irony.) A couple of ladies of the evening stood at the threshold of a cathouse...both seemed to be drenched in blood, and took a lot away from the fact they were wearing only corsets and lingerie. One called out, "Hey, boys! You looking for a good time? This is the place you'll find it, sure enough!"

The other said, "You ladies look classy! Maybe you'd like some meaningful employment?"

Deirdre called back, "Yeah, right! No, thanks!"

The first prostitute invited again: "So how about it, boys? We'll give you entertainment, guaranteed!"

Her fellow added, "We'll entertain you as much as you want, anytime you want! But you gotta stay awhile!"

"We'll make sure you stay awhile, cause you'll never leave!" Her voice had become more hungry than inviting. "We'll make sure you stay forever!" And yet...there was an uncertainty under the actor's tone, a disquiet in her eyes that was echoed in her fellow prostitute. They looked at each other, and they seemed to want to be somewhere else.

Chris, Janice and the others felt the same way. Before, it was genuinely fun...bloody and morbid, but it was Halloween Night. They were here to be scared, to feel more alive as a result. But their enthusiasm and anticipation of what Horror Town had to was like it was drained from them. And it seemed to be affecting the actors here in turn. Across the street from the cathouse was the Town Jail, where a U.S. Marshall stood in front as tall as Matt Dillon, except he didn't have a face, only a bloody skull's visage...instead of a gun, he held a scythe in both hands. But he was out of his role, too: he was looking around, and his mannerisms expressed nervous confusion. He actually asked out loud to himself, "Did something happen? What just happened?"

Chris, Janice and the others heard him, and knew exactly how he felt. They felt that way since it turned midnight. It was The Witching Hour...

...and something had changed.

They heard a screaming then, coming from far away...from the direction of where they entered Horror Town. But it wasn't just a single scream: many were screaming, and terribly it wouldn't stop...more voices added to the collective sound of what must have been unthinkable agony and terror with each passing moment. Chris, Janice and the others thought of the dozens, the hundreds who had to still be there waiting to pay to get in, and to a soul they were paralyzed with true fear.

They saw figures approach from where they came, from the mining camp.

There were dozens of them, and Chris immediately recognized Mandy among them even from a distance, her black dress flowing frantically with her running figure. The throng of people she was a part of startled the already-frightened ghoul prospectors as they ran past, and some felt the need to run with them, for they were much, much closer to the screaming. Then explosions resounded from the direction of the entrance, thudding sounds that made Chris, Janice and the others nearly jump out of their skins.

One of the prostitutes, the first one who spoke who wore red lingerie, looked across the street and cried out, "Carl!" She ran across then, followed quickly by her fellow lady of the evening who wore black (barely), to the undead Marshall. He'd dropped his scythe, took hold of the hand of the lady in red, and the three of them ran. Away from the unending noise of the screams, further into Horror Town.

They're heading for the exit, Chris thought. All things considered, it seemed to be an excellent idea. But he turned back to the mob of people running to them...and then they ran past, following the undead lawman and the cathouse girls. Mandy had lagged behind by the time she got to the group, but not for lack of trying. Chris stepped in front of her path and stopped her as gently as he could, shouting, "Whoa-WHOA! What's going on -- ?!?"

He realized Mandy's black dress was covered in blood, which made it gleam in the lighting of this portion of Horror Town. It had a plunging neckline, and her skin was stained in blood up to the nape of her neck. Her eyes were horrified and frantic as she cried, "You've got to run!" Mandy turned so quickly to Janice and his friends Chris thought she might give herself whiplash as she continued, louder, "ALL OF YOU, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"

"HOLD IT!" Chris had lost his patience as he gripped Mandy's shoulders hard. "Tell me what the hell is going on first! What -- ?!?"

Then the thing blasted out through the false front of the saloon a few doors back and landed among those running.

It quickly stood erect, over ten feet tall, and began attacking those frightened people it landed amongst. This hideous, malevolent...being that seemed to be a solid, living shadow that was almost ape-like in its form was definitely not part of the scares Horror Town had to offer. Its huge paws that tapered to sharp talons literally tore through every innocent it swiped into. Blood and gore misted in the air from the power of its blows.

"Holy fuck," Tim said neutrally.

Mandy took one look at the thing, and looked back at Chris...her eyes were wide, reflecting the clear and present terror within her. She screamed, "We have to GO! RIGHT NOW!"

Chris wasn't stupid enough to argue. He looked at Janice and took her shaking hand as she looked back at him not comprehending what was happening, not wanting to comprehend. As screams began to issue from the mining camp now for those who were unfortunately much slower, he yelled to the others, "Let's go! C'mon!"

They began to ran then, all of them...except one. Tim quickly figured that out as he ran holding Deirdre's hand and he stopped -- forcing his terrified girlfriend to stop with him -- and Tim turned to see that Drake hadn't moved. He was looking at the thing. The thing stopped its slaughter not far away from him and looked back at Drake in looked back with bright, incendiary eyes. In spite of Deirdre, Tim ran back to Drake, not daring to look at the being, and grabbed his arm. He screamed, "MOVE, YOU FUCKIN' DUMBSHIT!" Tim pulled Drake with him as his other hand held Deirdre's and they raced after Chris, Janice, Mandy, and many others.

They kept running into the main square of the more modern portion of Horror Town, which looked like the center of any small American town...except it was blasted, ruined and dead in more ways than one from some supernatural apocalypse. Chris saw clear and present echoes of Black Falls here...he also saw influences from other Survival Horror games, and of course, films. He wanted to like this place because it felt so...familiar. But he shrugged such thoughts away violently; he had the greater imperative to survive. He slowed down and shakily yelled, "Everybody stop! HOLD UP!" Janice, Mandy and his friends stopped with clear reluctance as others ran past there were fewer and fewer people running by. Chris didn't want to know what happened to those who couldn't get away, but...he looked at Mandy and said, "Listen, if we're going to have a chance, we've got to fuckin' understand what's going on! What happened back at the pay windows?!"

Mandy was crying, not wanting to stop for anything. "Please, we've got to keep going, we've got to get away -- !"

Chris said roughly, "Just tell me how this shit started, right now!"

Janice gave him a harsh look. "Chris, for Godsakes, look at her -- !"

"Baby, please!" He kept looking at Mandy. "Just keep it simple. Please...tell me what you ran from."

"They..." Mandy's expression broke with renewed horror and grief as she forced herself to think back. "They came out of nowhere not long after this girl in line said something about The Witching Hour..."

Chris' eyes narrowed. "Just after the clock hit midnight."

"I-I think so...they just came from everywhere, from under the ground, from the shadows..." Mandy reflexively placed her hand over her heart; she was trying to will herself to calm down. But new tears fell down her cheeks as she groaned, "They weren't like beast in the Wild West town. They were smaller, they rats, but that's not right. They...did things to people when they attacked...y-you don't want to know the things I saw...what they did to...make the screaming...oh God, it was horrible..."

Chris could only stare at the crying girl...and he felt close to crying himself. He shook his head, trying to accept the unreality of it. He managed to say, "What the hell...?"


Slowly, they all turned to Drake. None of them paid much attention to him, to each other, since they started running. The others couldn't help but stare at Drake now...Drake, who had always been more introverted than the others, who was always the square peg in the round world. He had their attention because his eyes were vivid with something close to insanity. But it was worse, because it was understanding that issued from him as he spoke: "Guys, you don't know. None of us did. We never had a damn clue."

Tim stared at Drake. "What're you talking about, man?"

He looked back at Tim, and he started smiling. "You've got so much shit between your ears...we all did. We forgot so much. We forgot everything, man. Everything."

Tim shouted back, "What the FUCK are you talking about?!?"

"I looked in that thing's eyes, man! I looked, and I saw what it felt...I saw what it was thinking!" He looked at them all, and he looked at them like they were brain-damaged. "We all forgot so damn much...but most of all we forgot to respect them! We stopped fucking respecting them and where they came from!"

Deirdre voice came out as a moan: "What're you saying!? What did we forget?!? I don't understand!"

"So much shit...between our ears." Drake laughed. "We thought we were it...we thought we were hot shit, the top of the food chain. But there are things over us, below us, beyond us. Them. Everything we look for to scare us these way or the other, it all came from the same place. From the legends and myths, from fucking vampires and metamorphs and demons and zombies and ghouls and all the shit that goes bump in the night! They were all real, man, they were real for thousands of years!" His eyes, insane, KNOWING, widened further, and so did his smile which turned into a grin. "But where do you think those things came from? Huh?! GOD didn't fucking make them, that's for damn sure! They came from Hell, man! Their ancestors or the fucking black magic that made them possible could only come from Hell!

"So what did we do, in a world of fucking logic and reason? Huh? Where we think we're such hot shit? We didn't just forget where they came from, what made them possible...we made them into...into novelties! We took all of that shit and what they came from for granted! We forgot to respect them, just as much as we're supposed to respect love, order, justice and all of that shit! Evil deserves as much respect as anything, right? Well, I looked into that fucker's eyes and I saw how much it hated us! They ALL hate us, the demons and dark powers of Hell we made into...into JOKES!


Mandy screamed then...not from the words of a young man driven insane by Truth, but by the scores of beings that slithered and glided toward them from where they came. Janice and Deirdre screamed, too...Tim, meanwhile, pissed his pants. Chris barely managed to contain himself when he saw them. They seemed to be part of the shadow, part of the night itself. Chris understood numbly why she called them rats...but not quite. He thought strangely of the Slinky because that's how pliable they appeared to be...they flowed through the world. But they flowed over the ground as they approached, he realized. Minor Daemon, Chris suddenly thought. And he didn't know why.

Chris thought, Am I being reminded? Am I...starting to remember?

Too little, too late, he feared.

Chris screamed to them all, "RUN!" He thought of Edgar Allen Poe, of Bram Stoker, of them and other mortals who had creative power in this world who once held respect for the darkness in their works of horror and darkness. But what was that creative power turned toward now? To novelty. To commodity. He began to realize how much the elder forces of Hell must have hated those of this mortal Earth as he and the others ran to escape death. To escape Evil itself. Again, however, one didn't run. Drake just stood there, smiling at the horde from Hell, and for better or worse because of the fear of his fellow mortals, he was left behind.

Drake's scream followed them as they ran, and that scream lasted for too damn long.

They ran out of the other side and onto a new, wide led to the final attraction of Horror Town. (There was another attraction, the Town Hall itself which was the place's house of horrors, but for understandable reasons they bypassed it.) Then. Tim twisted his ankle on the path that wasn't quite level. No running in Horror Town.

Tim collapsed on his face, and the others stopped. Deirdre fell on her knees next to Tim and urged him to get up, if she loved him get up! Chris felt like he remembered something long ago, long before Jesus Christ was followed by his disciples, the only ones who had the knowledge to defeat the dark forces in this world brought here by the will and power of Hell were those who knew Witchcraft, those who could appeal to the very elements and so much more to serve them. He knew there were witches in the modern day, Wiccans, and yet they had forgotten so much of their own history, their heritage and knowledge as a faith but not so much because of time but because they were hunted and persecuted and executed by the brutal stupidity of those who hated and feared who and what was different, and he knew they would be as helpless as he felt as he saw the Minor Daemon approach like a living flood, and he moved to Deirdre as Tim begged her to go, to leave him behind, but she said she loved him and would stay with him but Chris hated himself as he grabbed her around her slender waist and picked her up and began to drag her away and Janice helped him take hold of her and there was so much sadness in the eyes of the young woman he loved, and Deirdre screamed as Mandy could only stand there screaming, too, screaming they had to run as Tim shouted to Deirdre he loved her so much and it was okay, just RUN!

Then the flood of Minor Daemon reached Tim, and Deirdre couldn't look and turned from the one she loved. She screamed like her very soul was wounded, as Janice and Mandy took her by her arms and urged her to run again. She did so, they all ran, but only Chris looked back to his friend. He wished he didn't as Tim screamed, and would continue to scream as he saw the Daemon flood into him and through him eagerly. Chris realized the fuckers were turning Tim inside-out slowly but violently and his mortal blood was suddenly everywhere as a result. But Tim didn't die immediately, the Daemon wouldn't let the mortal know the blessing of a quick death. He knew in comparison he'd rather let that big bastard he saw in the Wild West version of Horror Town -- djinn, he remembered -- kill him before facing these. And he ran.

They all ran to the last attraction of Horror Town: Base Omega, a simulated military base which according to the attraction's fanfare was built outside of the city, but couldn't escape its curse. Horror Town made this base a part of it, and its soldiers who once served God and Country were driven insane and cannibalistic...the high brass of the base authorized all manner of hideous experiments, and those experiments as the advertising said continued to lurk and stalk through the corridors and on the grounds. They continued to run, ignoring the novelty of it, staying on the set path that would take them through it and to the exit. They ran into the cavernous main hangar drenched inside with fake blood and adorned with idiotic props and through it...they continued further into the HQ where animatronics of undead soldiers and alien-demonic things waited. They rushed past them and between them.

In the HQ's mess hall, they found the boy.

They almost missed him because he had hidden himself under one of the tables. His whimpering cries, however, got their attention...Mandy managed to coax the boy to come out, it was okay. The boy's eyes were wet and haunted...they had seen too much. Chris recognized the boy: he was part of the family of four he and Janice and the others were behind. Chris asked softly, "Are you okay? Where's the rest of your family, pal?" The boy broke fully into tears again, and Chris realized he shouldn't have asked. He knelt next to the boy as Mandy placed her hands gently on the child's shoulders. Janice could only look at the boy awkwardly, in tears herself.

Deirdre still cried, as well...but she had calmed considerably. She looked at nothing as she leaned on a corrugated steel wall of the HQ stained in fake blood. Chris looked at her, and asked himself if they were out of danger.

He quickly got his answer.

Something slammed HARD into the steel Deirdre leaned on behind her...and through her: a piercing shaft of darkness suddenly lanced through her just above her bosom. The others screamed and Janice cried out her name as she looked back at them, as she felt herself die, and it didn't hurt that much, she thought. Deirdre had time to say simply, "Oh, dear."

Then something pulled, and she was wrenched through the wall as it was rent outward. Chris picked up the boy and stood, and he knew he was screaming along with the young women as they watched the djinn, and it stared at them with eyes that had seen Hell itself. It then looked down and considered the dead mortal body impaled by its substance that it fired from its paw like a harpoon. It looked at her beautiful mortal face, and was offended by it...and its other paw reached up, closed about her head and face, and crushed her skull like it was a ripe grape.

The others ran in grief and terror as their fellow mortal was ripped to pieces.

They continued to run...Chris continued to remember little things that the rest of his mortal race had forgotten. He wondered if Janice and Mandy were remembering, as well. He wondered what the boy thought, if he had been reminded.

He wondered, above all, why they even bothered running.

Then they saw light through an open was the same in appearance as the entrance. They ran to it.

Finally, collectively, they stopped...and Chris looked back as he stood at the edge of a parking lot, he looked back at the dark maw of the exit to Horror Town, but he didn't feel relief. Far from it. He felt shellshocked and hollow from everything he'd seen. But he couldn't think of himself...he felt Janice cling to his arm, her cheeks wet with tears that mixed with blood from someone. From Deirdre just now? From someone else? The boy he cradled was trying to bury his face in his chest, trying to escape...everything. Chris wondered absently where this kid could be taken, if he had any relatives besides the family he lost. Mandy looked back into the darkness with a blank stare...her lips parted hesitantly, and she wanted to hope. She asked softly to no one in particular, "Did...did we get away? Is it over?"

Chris wondered that during this Witching Hour...if this was simply the world changing because of those they offended and made hateful. Or maybe this was an end, that those that reigned in Hell wouldn't be satisfied until all of his fellow mortals were dead. He wondered...and then he noticed something. They all did.

They heard screams in the darkness...screams that wouldn't stop...they were distant, but they seemed to be coming from everywhere.

Chris wondered how much time they had....

This story is the copyright (2007) of Charles Spencer, and is the sole property of the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, by electronic means or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.

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