CAW 32: Too Old for Trick or Treat

Discussion in 'Calling All Writers - CAW 32' started by ejls, Dec 3, 2017.

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  1. ejls

    ejls Moderator Staff Member

    CAW 32: Too Old for Trick or Treat

    Two boys meandered along the country lane. The sun was still high enough in the bright blue sky for it to warm the autumn day. The bees lazily danced around the wildflowers that lined the path.

    When they got to the fork in the path, Rich and Frankie went to the right, which led to the pond. The boys each carried a sleeping bag, a fishing pole, and a knapsack filled with everything they would need to spend a night sleeping under the stars.

    “This is way better than trick or treating, anyway,” Rich said, trying to sound convincing.

    Frankie nodded. “Your mom was so cool to suggest a camp-out. And way cool to send along Halloween candy.”

    “Yeah,” Rich agreed. “I guess we're getting too old to dress up. Besides, this is the first time we didn't have to have our dads with us. I'll bet some of the guys will be jealous when we tell 'em what we got to do.”

    “Hey, does this pond really belong to your family?”

    Rich shook his head no and explained, “I don't now know if it ever did, but it doesn't now. They say my great, great grandpa John found it, like a hundred years ago. It's always just been called Rutherford's Pond. But I don't think he ever really owned it or anything. Hey, you did remember the worms, didn't you, Frankie? Mom packed a little frying pan for the fish so we can cook 'em up.”

    “And if we don't catch anything? Did she think about that?” Frankie asked a little smirk on his face.

    “My mom thinks of everything...she sent along some Zweigle’s hot dogs.”

    They found their favorite spot near the pond. Through the years the boys and their dads had moved stumps to sit on, created a fire circle, and built a little lean-to to sleep under, in case it rained. They grew up knowing how to properly start a fire, how to make sure it was out, and how to treat the outdoors as if they were guests. Never leave behind anything but footsteps and never take anything but memories and photos, from the land.

    The rest of the afternoon was spent telling jokes and losing worms. The fish were biting, but Rich and Frankie weren't landing anything. Their shadows were getting longer and the sun was starting shoot off more golden rays. It was a reminder of how late it was getting and that it might be a good time to gather wood and start a fire.

    Rich and Frankie cooked their hot dogs on sticks over a orange flames. Along with some candy, Rich's mom also sent marshmallows. By the time the boys finished, the sun was sinking behind the trees.

    “If we move down the pond a little bit, maybe we'll catch something for breakfast,” Rich told Frankie. They grabbed their sweatshirts and set off

    Walking a little bit, but not so far that they couldn't see their camp, the boys decided to try their luck again. It was quiet, except for the occasional screech of a blue jay and the knocking of a woodpecker. The air was filled with the fragrances of pine, the campfire, and that special scent of autumn leaves.

    They had less luck in their new fishing spot than they did earlier. It wasn't too long before they took their lines out of the water and started back to their camp.

    “Wait!” Rich put his hand out to stop Frankie from walking further. “Did you hear that?”

    “Hear what? What are you talking about?”

    Rich put his finger up to his lips, “Shhhhhhh...”

    Frankie strained to hear whatever it was that stopped Rich. It sounded like an owl called, off in the distance.

    “That’s not what I heard,” Rich told him. “I swear I heard something else. Something like...”

    Frankie laughed at him. “You're out of your gourd.”

    “Shut up!”

    And then there it was. Quiet, but loud enough to be heard; it was the sound of someone crying.

    Rich grabbed Frankie's arm and whispered, “Tell me you didn't hear that!”

    Then there was no sound at all. The boys strained to see if anything could have made a noise like they had heard, but there was nothing.

    “Okay, that was a little strange,” Frankie finally said. “Yeah, I heard something but I'm not sure what.”

    “Oh, you know what…it sounded like somebody crying.”

    “Rich, look around. There's no one here. It had to be an animal or something. Let's get back and put some more wood on the fire. Besides, I know there's at least one candy bar with my name on it.”

    Rich shrugged his shoulders and followed his friend. Frankie was right about one thing; it was time for some candy.

    When they got back to their camp, Frankie added wood to the fire while Rich brought out the candy. The flames danced to the crickets’ song, snapping their fingers and sending sparks into the air. The white smoke curled its fingers in a beckoning motion. The sounds of the woods were a harmony of the crickets, frogs and the occasional bark of a wild animal.

    “What do you think the guys are doing?” Frankie asked.

    “I dunno. Probably some went out to get candy. Others probably had to stay home and give out the candy. Nobody's having as good a time as us. No kids running around and screaming. No parents to tell us what to do.”

    Frankie tossed another malt ball into his mouth. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

    A soft cry broke through the silence of the night, and there was no mistaking it for an animal.

    “You heard that, right?” Frankie asked excitedly. “I know you heard that!”

    Rich sat up straight and quietly ordered, “Shut up! Yes, I heard it.”

    As if drifting on a breeze, there was another cry, a little longer and a little louder.

    Frankie jumped to his feet, quickly followed by Rich. “Do you think it’s getting closer, Rich?”

    “Just stop, will you? It’s not like it’s a growl. Someone is crying.”

    The boys stood together, putting the fire between them and the open woods, and they stared into the night. They jumped when they heard a rustling of leaves and then moved closer together. Rich put his hand in his pocket to hold onto his pen-knife.

    They could definitely hear the sound of someone or something moving through the brush. It was as if the volume of the woods was suddenly turned to mute. There was absolute silence except for the sound of something moving toward them. No crickets, no wind, no frogs...no nothing. A small figure suddenly walked out of the darkness, startling both boys.

    A little girl, probably about nine or ten years old, walked into the light. She was a tiny, little thing with long brown hair that looked damp. Her large, round eyes were brimming with tears and the boys could tell she was scared.

    “Do...do...have you seen Arthur? I can't find him anywhere and I need him,” she said in a quiet voice.

    “Um, we don't know Arthur,” Frankie told her. “Who are you? Where did you come from and why are you out here all alone?”

    “I live here. Arthur takes care of me and he said he'd be right back and now I don't know what to do. You didn't see him?”

    Rich shook his head no. “We haven't seen anybody. I’m Rich and this is Frankie. What's your name? Can we help you find your way home?”

    “Gemma. Gemma Tyndall,” she told him, her body visibly trembling.

    “Come closer to the fire, Gemma,” Rich said. “You need to warm up. Then you can tell us your address and we'll help you get home. You shouldn't be out here by yourself.”

    Gemma took a couple of steps closer. She was wearing a long-sleeve navy blue dress. The white cuffs on the sleeves matched her socks and she wore buckled shoes that looked wet. “I told you I live here. I'm trying to find Arthur!” Gemma's voice got a little shrill.

    “But where do you live? We know this area pretty good, like for our whole lives. I don't remember ever seeing a house,” Frankie told Gemma.

    Her bottom lip started to tremble and Rich thought she was getting really upset. He walked over to put his arm around her, but she ducked away.

    “You don't believe me? I live here! My house is on the other side of the pond! Arthur told me to stay in my room and I'd be okay. He never came back. He was supposed to come back and he didn't. Who's going to take care of me?” With that, Gemma lowered her head and started to cry.

    Rich looked at Frankie, who shrugged his shoulders, not knowing what to say.

    “Look,” Rich started. “It's not like we don't believe you. We just never saw your house...ever. But we can help you find it. We'll walk with you, so you're not alone. We've got flashlights, so you don't have to be afraid.”

    Gemma lifted her chin and tearfully looked at both Rich and Frankie. “Really? You'll really help me?” she asked hopefully.

    Frankie spoke before Rich could answer. “Well, of course. Why wouldn't we? We can't let you wander around the woods all by yourself. Besides, I want to see where you live.”

    A light fog was starting to settle around the pond and the full Halloween moon was partially covered by clouds. The threesome set off around the pond to get Gemma's home. Little was said as they walked, mostly because the boys didn’t know what to say. An owl called hello, while off in the distance a wild dog howled.

    “I know we’re almost there,” Gemma told them.

    Rich whispered to Frankie, “It doesn’t look like it to me. There’s no path, no road. Doesn’t look like these weeds have ever been cut down.”

    “What if she gets us lost? I can’t believe we’re following a little kid,” Frankie whispered back.

    “See! I told you I lived here!” Gemma exclaimed, before running ahead of them.

    The boys stopped and peered into night. They didn’t see anything at all, other than Gemma disappearing into the fog. They picked up their pace, trying to catch up.

    Frankie said, “Do you see anything? I’m telling you, she’s a little bit crazy.”

    It was as if the fog heard what he said and opened a portal to the grounds. Ahead of them stood a big, old, white house. Gemma was jumping up and down with glee, though Rich didn’t understand why. Yes, it was a house, but it was the kind of house you might see in a Stephen King movie. The house stood three stories tall with a huge porch that wrapped itself around the side of the home, matched by a porch on the second floor, also. All the windows were dark and paint was peeling off the clapboards.

    “You live here?” Frankie asked Gemma. “There’s no lights on.”

    “Of course not, silly. I told you Arthur told me to stay in my room. Why would there be a light anywhere else?

    With that, Gemma bounded up the six steps, pushed open the front door and disappeared into the darkness. The steps creaked when Rich and Frankie followed her.

    “Come on,” she shouted from inside the house.

    Cautiously, the boys stepped inside, shining their flashlights around as they did. What furniture happened to be there was sparse and there were cobwebs in all the corners of the rooms.

    “Come up to my room,” Gemma called. “Hurry!”

    “Rich, do we have to go up? I’m…well, I’m not feelin’ so good about this,” Frankie told him.

    “We can’t just leave her in here, now can we? Look, we’ll go up and make sure everything is good, figure out the address of this place and then we’ll tell our folks. They can handle things from there. Maybe she’s been abandoned,” Rich replied.

    They slowly began to climb the grand staircase. The hallway on the second floor was empty and all the doors were closed except one. There was an amber glow coming from that room at the end of the hall.

    “Where are you?” Gemma called out.

    They quietly walked down the hall and stood in the doorway of Gemma’s bedroom. The light had been coming from lanterns on the mantel of a large fireplace. The room was filled with little girl toys like doll houses, stuffed animals, a faded floral plush chair. In the corner was a huge canopy bed covered in tattered and torn lace. The room looked like it hadn’t been touched in years, other than the lovingly played with toys.

    “Don’t you think my room is pretty? Do you like my toys?”

    “Wow,” Frankie said, under his breath.

    Rich looked around, not quite sure how to respond. “You live here, Gemma? It’s kind of…so, where is the rest of your family?”

    Gemma looked a little confused. “I’m not sure,” she told him. “I told you that Arthur takes care of me.”

    “So this Arthur guy,” Frankie inquired. “Is he like your teacher or like a butler? Why is he taking care of you? Where are your parents?”

    “You’re confusing me. Arthur watches over me. He makes sure that I’m okay,” Gemma said. “Hey, do you want to play Parcheesi?”

    Frankie turned to Rich and whispered, “Something ain’t right. I think we gotta get out of here.”

    Rich nodded his head and then looked at Gemma, who was laying out the Parcheesi game. Part of him wanted to run very fast. The other part of him wanted to stay and protect this little girl who still seemed so lost.

    “So, Gemma,” Rich asked. “What do you think about coming to my house? It’s Halloween and my mom has a huge bowl of candy. You could come get some and if you want to go trick or treating, Frankie and I can take you out in my neighborhood.”

    Frankie poked Rich with his elbow. “What about camping?”

    “Shhhhhhh…” Rich didn’t want Gemma to hear him.

    “Trick or treating? We can’t go anywhere; we have to wait for Arthur. He’ll want to meet the boys who were nice to me.”

    From downstairs, there was a loud squeak of a door opening, and then slamming shut. Rich and Frankie both looked out into the hall at the same time. The sound of footsteps could be heard, walking around on the wood floors. A few seconds later, they heard someone start up the stairs. With each movement the steps got louder.

    “See?” Gemma said with an odd smile on her face. “Arthur’s come home. He’s coming up to make sure I’m safe and sound. He’ll be happy that you two were so nice to me. You’ll like Arthur.”

    It was agonizing hearing someone come up the stairs so slowly. Rich counted in his head – twenty six steps before Arthur reached the second floor. Slow deliberate footsteps thudded towards Gemma’s door. Rich pulled Frankie to back away from the door and glanced around the room to see if there was another way out, but didn’t see another door, only the window. Without trying to be conspicuous, they moved to the far side of the room and saw that the window opened up to the second story porch.

    “Arthur!” Gemma cried with glee.

    There in the doorway was the tallest, thinnest man the boys had ever seen. He was so tall, they could only see his shoulders until he ducked to enter Gemma’s bedroom. When he did, Gemma rushed forward to hug him. Frankie’s mouth opened in a silent scream when he saw that Arthur really didn’t have a face. Below the bald head, beneath the eyes that seemed to be devoid of life, Arthur's face faded into nothingness. It was almost like a sheet costume with only the eyes cut out. His eyes just stared at them.

    “What the…?” Rich yelled. He turned around and tried to open the window. “Help me, Frankie!”

    Frankie didn’t need to be asked twice. They worked hard to push the window up, looking over their shoulders at the specter being hugged by Gemma.

    “Hurry, Rich, hurry,” Frankie cried.

    “Arthur, these are my new friends,” Gemma exclaimed. “Can they stay? Can they stay forever?”

    That was the last the boys heard. The window finally open and they crawled out onto the porch, desperately trying to find a way down. Around the corner they spotted a dried-up vine, clinging to the house.

    Rich looked at Frankie and said, “I’ll go first. I’ll catch you if you fall. Be careful!”

    The first piece of vine broke off in Rich’s hand. Instead of panicking, he reached out, grabbed a thicker piece, and hoisted himself over the railing. As he started down, he heard Gemma calling through the window.

    “Come back! We want you to stay and play!”

    Frankie was right behind him. The two scrambled as quickly as they could, their clothes and hands being torn by the thorny vine. When they reached the bottom, they ran as fast as their feet would take them, around the pond and back to their campsite.

    “Get our stuff!” Rich ordered, as he poured a bucket of water over the dying fire. “Hurry!”

    They left their fishing gear and sleeping bags, grabbed their knapsacks and ran down the path to the lane that would lead them home. There was no talking, just two boys running faster than they ever had before, to get back to town. When they arrived back at Rich’s house, they collapsed on the back step, panting.

    “What’s going on?” Rich’s mother asked, hearing them at the back door. “Oh, my gosh! What happened?”

    The two boys were white as ghosts, huddled together on the bottom step. It took a while before she could convince them to come inside and calm down. As they sat around the kitchen table, they told their story of Gemma while Rich’s mom dressed their cuts and scrapes.

    “I’m only going to ask this once,” she said. “Are you sure this happened? You’re not making this up, are you? You’re not playing a Halloween trick on me, right?”

    “Mom, I promise you, we’re telling the truth! The house didn’t even look like anyone lived there except in her bedroom! Everything was really old and…and…”

    Frankie broke in, “He didn’t have a face! I swear, Mrs. Rutherford, he had eyes but no face! He was the biggest man I ever seen!”

    “We’ll talk to your father about this when he gets home from the station. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for this. Now you two go upstairs and bed down in Rich’s room. Frankie, I’ll let your folks know you’re here, but I’m not going to say anything about this story until tomorrow. Now, scat.”

    They turned to go and Rich’s mom reached for him and held him close. She knew her son and this was not a prank. Something happened out there. The boys went upstairs to bed and she waited for her husband to get home.

    Joe Rutherford came in from the fire station at about ten thirty. He took one look at his wife and sensed something was wrong. Over coffee at the kitchen table, she recounted everything the boys had told her.

    “Come on, you really believe this?”

    “Joe, you know we can always tell when Rich is lying. This was not a lie. These boys were terrified.”

    Joe stood up and held out his hand to her. “Come with me, I want to show you something.”

    In the den he took an old book off the bookshelf. It was a scrapbook started by his grandfather. Joe turned the musty pages until he found an old newspaper article. In the paper was a picture of a huge house on fire – the Tyndall house.

    “Years ago, there was a house built near the pond. The parents were very elderly, but they had a young daughter. The butler, or caretaker, I don’t know what he was, was a giant of a man. People were amazed that someone that big could be so gentle with the old people and the little girl. When the fire started, he got Mr. and Mrs. Tyndall out of the house and went upstairs to find their daughter. She was hiding in her bedroom. The roof caved in killing both of them, while the Tyndall’s watched. They say the couple died days later of broken hearts.”

    “That’s impossible,” she said, looking at her husband. “The boys were in the house tonight. They crawled out of a window!”

    “I’m telling you,” Joe said. “The house no longer exists. At best you might find part of the foundation, but the house completely burnt down in the fire.”

    “Are you telling me they saw ghosts tonight?”

    Joe swallowed hard and showed his wife the article again. “Look at the date of the fire. It was on Halloween.”
     
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  2. 1 Toy Maker

    1 Toy Maker Well-Known Member

    That's a goosebumps story if ever I read one! i picked up a couple of tiny mistakes.
     
  3. Missrachael

    Missrachael Queen of Cheshire

    Mistakes? I didn't care! I don't think I blinked for the last third of the story! Brilliant piece, loved it, well done!
     
  4. Justanotherslut

    Justanotherslut Active Member

    Perfect tale for a Halloween campfire! Great story!
     
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  5. AnX...

    AnX... Bloody nuisance

    A nice story, reminds me of the stories we used to tell as teenagers having sleepovers to scare each other.
     
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  6. Uncle B

    Uncle B Well-Known Member

    Yes a couple of tiny mistakes, but who cares? That was a great story, and an easy read. It kept my interest the whole way through, and I could visualize the whole thing with the great description.

    I am going to say that I was very worried when you said a little 9 year old walked into the campsite of two young boys, but that is only because this is an adult site, and I was hoping you weren't going to go there. You didn't.

    This was obviously about picture #6. I wish you would have mentioned that though.

    This just went to the top of the list for me. It may not get my top vote, but then again, it might. A very very good story!
     
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  7. Pars001

    Pars001 #1 Knight Writer

    hmmmmmmmm sounds like stories here where I live not bad
     
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  8. Redbeard1031

    Redbeard1031 Well-Known Member

    A very haunting story well told. I could not stop reading until I reached the end. Well done Thanks for your submission.
     
  9. bistander

    bistander Well-Known Member

    Well written and well-told story. I never felt like, please be over soon.
    Minor mistakes don't take away from the story.
    The length was perfect for a contest story of this nature.
    It was clear which picture the story was written for. I didn't know anything about that picture or what movie it was from, but I didn't need to.
    Well done.
     
  10. Little Miss K

    Little Miss K Naughty but Nice

    I want to start by saying I LOVE that picture! :) I don't know what it's from, or even if it is new, or old, but it is so creepy and surreal. I wanted to come up with an idea to write about it, but nothing came to mind. :(

    I am so glad that I didn't get an idea... It would never have been as good as this one. :D I love it!

    I didn't know what was going to happen, and I was rushing along to find out. When the father told about the history of the Tyndall house, I got goosebumps. :eek: I also liked the part about the giant Arthur being so gentle a caregiver, and how Gemma hugged him when he came home. There is something about seeing something "scary" in a different light that I find very interesting. I don't think that they were evil spirits, only lonely ones. :confused:

    Way to go! :)

    Ps. Does anyone know what this picture is from?
     
  11. bistander

    bistander Well-Known Member

    The Slender Man (2013) - IMDb
    or
    Slender Man, the fictitious story of the tall, faceless murderer of children is getting a film adaptation, confirmed Screen Gems. The studio is in negotiations with Mythology Entertainment to co-produce and distribute the feature written by David Birke, known for his horror film “13 Sins.”May 5, 2016
    upload_2017-12-9_11-3-38.jpeg
     
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  12. ejls

    ejls Moderator Staff Member

    I almost didn't read this because of the title (similar to another). Good story telling, good balance of descriptive narrative and dialogue. Scary without being violent. Good job.
     
  13. ahorsewithnoname

    ahorsewithnoname Author & Admin. Live. Love. Write! Win a Pulitzer! Staff Member

    I will say that if I had votes, this would get one of them. I too was holding my breath...yikes!

    Great. Fricken'. Story.
     
  14. Little Miss K

    Little Miss K Naughty but Nice

    This got one of my votes. :)

    I really tried to come up with a story for that picture. I'm so glad you used it and came up with such a great idea! :D
     
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