by: Devin Berglund
Four were still needed to complete his collection. He had already collected a few. They looked at him from on top of his desk. He gently tapped each of them on the head with his crooked finger. Their heads bobbed back and forth to life until they weren't moving anymore. He laughed and grabbed his white phantom mask and his black cape before leaving the house.
Earlier Adriana, Justice, and I helped Mom string the fake cobwebs from one side of the room to the other, but some had to be real, because this house had been vacant for a long time. The wooden steps creaked as I made my way down the stairs. The Jack-O’lantern in front of the door reminded me of my last Halloween Party many years ago. One could barely compare it to this party though because my last one was a 5th grade party in our classroom where three of my classmates came wearing the same costume as me.
Most of my childhood memories were of playing with kids we had just met in RV parks and studying on the road. I think that is why Dad decided to have a Halloween themed house warming party. He felt it would be an exciting event for us. He was right, but I think he felt bad we hadn’t had the pleasure of slumber parties with friends and school plays like most other children had. My cat sneaked up and rubbed her head on my leg while looking at me before disappearing down the steps.
I looked over the banister and tip toed down the rest of the steps into the music room where Adriana’s harp and Justice’s guitar sat in one corner. Mom had placed some new furniture in the other corner just to make sure that people wouldn’t think our house was empty. The pumpkin pie scented candles flickered. Where did everyone go? I asked myself. Suddenly loud music started drumming through the door leading to the backyard patio.
Oh, maybe they are outside. I answer my own question. My high-heel shoes clink on the wooden floor as I reach the kitchen. A knock came from the front door.
“I’m coming.” I pulled the door open to find a tall slender man with a black cane in his right hand. He resembled the Phantom of the Opera with a black cape, white gloves, and a matching mask.
“Hello Tessa! How have you been” his voice was deep. He leaned in while speaking to me.
“Hi…uhh, good…” I tried to hide the uncomfortable feeling that was rising inside of me, so I bit my lip.
“Who are you?” I cocked my head to the side. His eyes were surrounded by the darkness inside his mask.
“I was the music and choir teacher at Lake County Middle School. Your brother attended many of my classes.” He offered his hand for me to shake. The hair on the back of my neck stood up straight. I was experiencing the same instinctive feeling that I imagined the cave men in my history book had felt when a saber-tooth tiger stalked them. Fight or Flight. I shook his hand. He gripped my hand tightly while smiling, and didn’t let go.
“Yes, that sounds a lot like Justice.” I said while shaking his hand awkwardly. I resisted the urge to rip my hand from his clutches and slam the door in his face. I need to be polite, but something is strange with this man, I need to find everyone else.
“Speaking of which, I need to go find him and my sister.” Chills crawled up my spine as he let go of my hand.
“But it was nice meeting you again. I think they’re on the patio.” I smiled while pointing towards the door. I heard him behind me as I slid the patio door open, my cat ran out.
I escaped to the patio after my cat while covering my eyes from the blazing torches on the edge of the grass. The music was blaring so loudly, that my ear drums were ringing. I hit the power button as silence filled the patio.
“How can you all stand the music this loud?” I said as everyone sat around the table quietly as though they didn’t hear me. I recognized my mom in her Cruella de Vill costume, but something was wrong with her face. Her mouth was gaping open, her cheeks were hallow under her skin. Her eyes were blood-shot and her skin was pale and it wasn’t from the make-up on her face. I ran up to my mother and set my head on her chest.
No heart beat.
“Mom! Come on, you can’t do this to me!” All the others around the table had the same sullen and frightened look on their faces. I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye. No one was moving. Who are all these people, I wondered while I backed away from the table. Someone did this to them. Where is everyone else? I looked around for the Phantom, but he was no where to be seen. I thought he followed me out here.
My heart pounded faster. It felt like the world was shrinking around me, entrapping me like a snowman in a snow-globe. I couldn’t see anyone moving or hiding in the trees, but as I turned my head I saw a shadow run across the yard toward the garden shed - it was my cat. I jumped when I heard the steps creak and ran toward the shed where my cat was sitting.
“Kitty, Kitty…” I called. My cat would have usually responded when I called her, but she didn’t. Instead she sat there with her fur on end, while oddly purring calmly. Her tail went slowly back and forth without shifting her tranced stare from the second storey bedroom window.
“Psst…” a quiet voice from behind the shed called to me. I turned to see who it was.
“Jason? Is that you?” I remembered him, but his face had changed a lot since the last time I had seen him. He became my first crush when he helped me hide my string-beans in my milk container at the cafeteria for lunch.
“Yes, it is me. Come here!”
“What is going on?” I kicked off my high heel shoes and ran toward him, “Do you know where my brother and sister are?”
“No, but someone here can not be trusted.”
“Do you know who?”
“Not really, but he had a white mask and gloves.”
I gasped as the face of the Phantom came to my mind. He was the last person I had spoken to and fit Jason’s description perfectly.
“So what are we going to do now?”
“What about my brother and sister?”
“They probably already escaped with some of the other people, while I hid here.”
“Do you know what happened?”
“Just a little. I hid to see what was happening, and wish I hadn’t seen it. The Phantom was back here. When he lifted his cane, everyone around the table screamed, but it was covered with the blaring music.”
The patio’s door slid open as I hid behind the shed with Jason. I peeked out and saw the Phantom. He walked to the table and chuckled at the people. He started humming to himself and turned to look the other way. Jason and I ran to another clump of trees when all of a sudden pain shot through my legs and I couldn’t move them anymore. Jason grabbed one of his legs too.
“I can’t move.” He whispered.
“I know… I can’t either.” I felt like I was running in a nightmare, but couldn’t get away from the evil that was chasing me. I peeked to see if the Phantom was still on the patio.
“He was no longer there!” I gasped, “Where did he go?”
“Right here, dearie.” A hauntingly familiar voice responded as I looked back at Jason, who was now in the Phantom’s arms. His white gloved hand covered Jason’s mouth muffling his screams.
“Oh silence.” The man spoke.
“What do you want?”
“You… Tessa. All of you kids.” He stretched his cane out towards me, my head spun. Everything around me became larger. I must have been thrown into my snow-globe after all.
His collection was finally complete.
“It’s a pity you don’t know how talented you are.” He spoke to them.
But the time would come for them to know their destiny, but for now they were mere collectibles that sat on his desk approving his future plans whenever he’d bobble their heads. When he’d need them, he’d call on them and they would obey.