The last thing Gregory Williams remembered feeling was a cold hand on his shoulder. Now he was standing in a dark wooden box, with no room to move, dirty and… was that blood? Hard to say. He couldn’t see. His mind raced, trying to make sense of the nightmare that had led him to this awful predicament.
The kids had been excited, running around the house in their costumes, dangling empty buckets and bags, anticipating loads of goodies and loot from their wildly swinging arms. Danny was a ninja. Perry was a robot. Lucy was a princess. Jarod, the boy from next door, was a vampire.
Jarod’s family, the Richtors, had just recently moved to the neighborhood. Jarod’s mother, Nina, was of the stay-at-home variety. His father, Nathan, worked the graveyard shift. Gregory wasn’t sure what Nathan did for a living. In fact, he’d rarely seen the Richtors since they moved in, but the kids had met at a late night Halloween Bowl-a-thon downtown and been surprised at how close they lived to one another. They’d hit it off quickly and become fast friends. He didn’t know much about the Richtors, but he and his family thought that Halloween night would be as good a time as any to find out.
They’d had a good night, and the kids had taken in a good haul. Nathan Richtor had been an invaluable help in keeping the children corralled. Gregory was glad he’d come along, but he was tired, and had to work the next morning, so he was happy to have his three year old SUV pointed toward home as the children piled in for the last time. “What’sh down thath wroad?” Jarod asked, his false fangs muffling his words.
Gregory looked. “Nothing. Dead end. There’s an old house, but nobody’s lived there for years.”
“But I shee lightsh.”
“I see’em too, Daddy,” Lucy piped up, “Halloween lights!”
“Oh, cool, Dad,” Danny exclaimed, “I can see one of those giant inflatable pumpkin things from here! Let’s go!”
“Analysis,” droned Perry in his best robot voice, “They probably have candy.”
Gregory sighed. Of course he saw it too. He wasn’t anxious to meet any more new neighbors tonight, but the kids were whipping themselves into a frenzy. He’d have to comply.
He sat in the SUV with Nathan Richtor, watching the kids approach the house in a tight group. The decorations were certainly spirited. A graveyard scene with ghosts and fake body parts hanging from the trees. The huge inflatable pumpkin cast a strange orange light on everything. A foreboding jack-o-lantern by the front door dared the kids to proceed. He could see Lucy was scared. He was about to get out and hurry things along, but Nathan Richtor put a hand up. “Let them go.”
Gregory must have been getting tired. The eerie light that cast the kids’ shadows must have been playing tricks on his eyes. There seemed to be something in the shadows, darting from one child’s shape to the next. He did a kid count. One, two, three… Where was Jarod?
Suddenly, the shadows lifted from the ground, congealing into a solid form: A massive and devilish looking pair of bat wings that enfolded the kids. Gregory’s kids. His eyes widened in horror, a cold sweat overcame him, and his guts felt like they’d been yanked into his throat. “Danny?” he choked, “Perry?” his mouth was contorted in a painful gimace of desperation, “Lucy!”
Finally, his brain made contact with his extremities. He fought with his seatbelt buckle and the door handle at the same time, feeling suddenly helpless and trapped. What was going on?
Then the cold hand on his shoulder. Then the box.
He was trying to find an opening, an air hole, any way out, when he heard footsteps outside, and a woman’s voice, “Did you have any trouble?”
“No, dear. It was like taking candy from a trick or treater.”
Gregory knew that voice.
Chains rattled and a key turned. The box opened. He was in a dank basement. A single hanging bulb cast ghoulish shadows as Nathan and Nina Richtor stood in front of him, smiling. All four kids stood behind them. They looked safe. Thank God.
Wait… was that blood on Lucy’s mouth?
“What’s going on?”
Nathan ignored him. “Jarod, how do you like your new friends?”
Jarod smiled. His plastic fangs were gone, but his teeth looked more wicked and sharp than when he was wearing them. “I love them, Dad.”
“Danny?” Gregory tried, “Have they hurt you kids?”
Nathan spoke to Gregory for the first time since the SUV now, his eyes kind, his tone warm. “Jarod, here, really took a liking to your kids. They’re really something special. He’s been dying to make friends of his own kind.”
“His own… what?” Gregory asked. Nina smiled. That same wicked smile.
Nathan ignored him and continued, “They’re hungry though. It’s been a big night for them. Kids?”
Gregory’s mind refused to understand what was happening. It was impossible. A nightmare. All three of his children smiled, the same terrible teeth as Jarod and Nina.
“Dig in,” said Nathan, putting his arm around his wife’s shoulders as he turned to leave, “Happy Halloween.”
Gregory screamed as his own progeny tore into him with their newly acquired fangs and began to gorge themselves. Danny the ninja. Perry the robot. Lucy the princess. Their new friend Jarod simply watched.
Jarod the vampire.
As Nathan and Nina made their way up the basement stairs, Jarod gazed happily as the other children feasted, “Happy Halloween, Daddy.” .
“That’s so sweet, what you did tonight,” Nina Richtor said to Nathan.
“Well, you know,” Nathan kissed her cheek as he shut the door on the glorious carnage, “Holidays are all about the kids.”