“Okay, okay!” the clown shouted over the screams. He paused for a second while the others composed themselves. The fire gleamed in his eyes as they darted across the other costumed faces huddled together in the woods. “I have a scary ghost story that will ruin Halloween for you forever!”
“Is it a scary story or a ghost story?” a vampire asked.
“Both! Does it matter?” The clown hesitated to let the other kids settle down. “This happened to my dad many years ago on this exact night. He was out trick-or-treating with his friends, celebrating Halloween, and having an overall good time. They got the largest haul in years! Anyway, he was with his friends, dressed as we are tonight. He was a simple scarecrow, while his best friends were a werewolf and a mummy, and his girlfriend was a gnarled old witch. After their night about the neighborhood, they decided to take a shortcut through the woods back to Paul’s, the werewolf’s, house. Indecently, we are in the last of those woods still remaining.
“The forest was dark, but my dad knew the way. In the pitch black, the four scrambled over twigs and sticks until eventually my dad stopped. He didn’t know where they were anymore. The path was no longer familiar, and the woods were becoming thicker. The moon, which was glowing full in the cloudless sky, could not break through the canopy. Suddenly, the others began to panic. Ashley, my dad’s girlfriend, started to pant heavily.
“My dad tried to calm her down, but then John started to hear something. He started talking frantically, shaking my dad and Paul, trying to tell them something. In the confusion, my dad couldn’t understand, but Paul started to shout. He kept screaming that they were lost, that they needed help. Meanwhile, Ashley began panting even faster and faster! John began shaking my dad again, mumbling incoherently. Paul began running in circles, still shouting!
“Suddenly, my dad could hear it too! There was laughter, deep laughter coming from what must have been a big man. The sound was coming from all around! It became louder and louder until the silence of the Halloween night was filled with only the laughter. Soon, he couldn’t even hear Ashley panting, only the laughter. Before he could figure out whom or what was making the noise, his friends dispersed, scattering into different directions. If they screamed, my dad could not hear them. There was only the laughter. In panic, he darted off into the dark bushes, too. He didn’t care where he was going, only that he got away from the deep, mocking laughter.
“In his mad-dash run, my dad suddenly came out of the woods. The moonlight almost blinded him, it was so bright compared to the darkness of the forest. However, he was not back in civilization. He was at the start of the corn fields that stretched across the side of town. Behind him, from deep within the woods, there was still the echoing of the laughter. The hair on the back of his neck shot up as he realized the laughter was following him, getting closer and closer to the edge of the trees. Again, he sprinted off into the rows of stalks, not caring where he ran so long as the laughter did not catch up with him again.
“Finally, the laughter was silenced. The chuckles seemed to fade away just as my dad collapsed into the dirt. After he caught his breath, he looked around. He reached an open patch in the fields. Encircling him were rows of corn stalks branching out into the night. My dad rose from his crouch to see a tall, lanky figure looming over him. Startled, my dad jumped back only to realize it was scarecrow, standing watch over the fields. Its overalls, plaid shirt, and straw hat match my father’s own Halloween costume.
“In the silence of the fields, my dad allowed himself to smile. Looking back at the scarecrow and its pumpkin head, he began to slowly walk in the opposite direction from where he came, hoping to find solace at the farmer’s house. He smelled the cool fall air, and for a moment forgot about his friends. He was safe. Only then did he realize he dropped his bag of candy.
“Then he heard rustling! It sounded almost like leaves bouncing across the ground in the autumn breeze. My dad stopped, and so did the rustling. He looked to his feet and began walking again. The rustling resumed, but it did not seem to originate from his footsteps. It was coming from behind! He stopped again, and hesitantly looked around. Only the stalks were keeping him company. Without seeing anyone else, he continued. The rustling resumed. He naturally picked up speed, and the rustling matched it.
“My father stopped and turned around. Down the path between the stalks was only the scarecrow. Once again, the hair on the back of his neck stood up as he realized the scarecrow had moved and was facing him. Then he saw it, the long blade of a scythe gleaming in the moonlight above the scarecrow’s straw arm. Slowly, the head looked up to reveal a face carved into pumpkin. The hollow, jack-o-lantern face looked eerily like my dad’s own face, only twisted into a look of malice.
“Suddenly, the scarecrow look-a-like began sprinting after my dad, scythe raised and ready to strike. My dad took off, too, sprinting down his path. Over the rustling of the scarecrow’s run there was the shout, ‘You shall take my place upon the pole and I will live your life! You will keep watch for birds as I become human!'”
In the silence that followed, the clown could see terror in his friends’ faces. “What happens next?” the vampire asked.
Suddenly, there was rustling from behind as a tall, lanky man entered the light! Everyone screamed. “It’s okay! It’s just my dad.”